E-cigarettes are rapidly gaining popularity, especially among young people who regard them as harmless. After all, the advantages of vaping over traditional cigarette smoking are well known: no tobacco, no tar, no smoke, no carbon monoxide, and less harm to teeth and gums. A traditional cigarette contains a host of about 5000 potentially dangerous chemicals whereas an e-cigarette contains only five, including nicotine and some organic solvents. However, recent research from the USA suggests e-cigarettes are far from harmless: they could increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The researchers from New York University School of Medicine warn that vaping may increase the risk of life-threatening conditions. In animal tests, mice exposed to e-cigarette smoke were shown to have higher levels of DNA damage in the heart, lungs and bladder than mice breathing normal filtered air. DNA repair systems, which protect against cancer, were also impaired in the mice cells.

The researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [1]: ‘We propose that ECS [e-cigarette smoke] is carcinogenic and that e-cig smokers have a higher risk than non-smokers to develop lung and bladder cancer and heart diseases.’

The Health Service Executive is of the opinion that while e-cigarettes are a new and potentially helpful addition to quitting smoking, it can only endorse products that are proven to be safe, and proven to be effective; e-cigarettes have not yet achieved either test, they state. Advice on methods to stop smoking can be found on their QUIT website [2].

Conversely, Vape Business Ireland has welcomed the results of a study in humans that shows no adverse health impact from e-cigarettes. The peer-reviewed clinical trial, due to be published next month in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology [3], has shown that of the 209 individuals that took part, no serious health concerns were reported. The study also showed that nicotine withdrawal symptoms were reduced with the continued use of vaping products.

[1] https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718185115
[2] https://www.quit.ie/
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230017303975