Vaping may raise the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, according to a team of scientists who studied the effects of e-cigarette smoke on healthy mice and human cells.
Researchers found evidence that nicotine inhaled from e-cigarettes could be converted into chemicals that damage DNA in the heart, lungs and bladder, and dampen down the body’s genetic repair mechanisms.
Moon-shong Tang, professor of environmental medicine at New York University, said the DNA changes were similar to those linked to secondhand smoke, but added that more work was needed to see whether vaping really did increase cancer rates.
The researchers have now launched long-term experiments to look at the development of tumours in mice exposed to vapour from e-cigarettes, but Tang does not expect to have answers any time soon. “The results may take years to come in because cancer is such a slow process,” he said.
While some researchers said the work was important, others all but dismissed it as irrelevant to humans. The mice were exposed to high levels of e-cigarette smoke and the effects may be very different in people who inhale nicotine from vaping, critics caution.
“This study shows nothing at all about the dangers of vaping,” said Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London. “It doesn’t show that vaping causes cancer.”
“This is one in a long line of false alarms which may be putting people off the switch from smoking to vaping which would undoubtedly be of great benefit to them,” he added. “The best current estimate is that vaping poses, at worst, some 5% of risks of smoking.”