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Study Claiming That E-Cigarettes Could Cause Cancer Is Just Trying to Scare You

A team of researchers from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System recently published a study on the effect of electronic cigarette vapor on human cells and found that it causes damage that could promote the development of cancer.

research-deviceLead researcher Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriquez, a professor of pathology at the University of California, San Diego, and her team, created an extract from the vapour of two popular brands of e-cigarettes, which they used to treat cultures of human cells in Petri dishes. Using both nicotine-containing and nicotine-free e-cigs, as well as Marlboro Red cigarettes and a control culture of cells for comparison, the team conducted a number of tests to see how vapor resulted from e-liquid mixed at a 30/70 pg/vg ratio affects cells.

Their findings are, unfortunately, very unnerving. Among other things, the published results showed that the vapor extract had caused several forms of DNA damage, including DNA strand breaks, on the treated cells. Also, exposure to the extract appeared to prevent the cells from proliferating at a normal rate. While the nicotine-containing extract did more damage, nicotine-free products also produced some damage to the cells.

“There have been many studies showing that nicotine can damage cells,” said Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriquez. “But we found that other variables can do damage as well.” She and her team believe that nicotine is not the only culprit, as the amount present in the tested e-liquid is not enough to cause this kind of changes in cells, so there are probably other ingredients doing damage. Wang-Rodriquez said that they would now be focusing their efforts on identifying what these substances are. Formaldehyde and diacetyl are two of the main ‘suspects’.

The study conducted by the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System consisted of multiple tests, about which you can get some valuable information from this helpful post on Reddit, which involved healthy and cancerous human cells being exposed to e-cigarette vapor for one to eight weeks. I won’t go into too much detail regarding these tests, just check the Reddit link, the poster did a much better job explaining all the experiments than I ever could.

The bottom line is I was genuinely scared after going through the results of this study. Basically, all the tests showed that exposure to e-cigarette vapor extract (with or without nicotine) increased cell death, prevented cell reproduction and resulted in DNA damage or DNA strand breaks. According to scientific theory, all these things are potentially is potentially carcinogenic. Plus, unlike other studies I had read, this one seemed really thorough, which was even scarier.

But then I came across an article in the International Business Times that quoted Dr. Wang-Rodriquez as saying that the cells they analysed in the lab are not completely comparable to a living person’s cells, and in vivo testing could yield very different results. Furthermore, she admitted that they didn’t use the the actual dose of vapor that an e-cigarette user would obtain when vaping.

“In this particular study, it was similar to someone smoking continuously for hours on end, so it’s a higher amount than would normally be delivered,” Wang-Rodriquez said. “What we’re looking at now is to dose-control these. We want to know at what dose it causes that critical switch-over to where we see the damage.”

Hours on end doesn’t sound very realistic to me…

Despite these inconsistencies in her study and the fact that results showed the damage caused by e-cigarette vapor extract was considerably lower than that done by cigarette smoke, Dr. Wang-Rodriquez said that she doesn’t think e-cigs are any safer than smoking. “Based on the evidence to date, I believe they are no better than smoking regular cigarettes,” she said.

While I understand that this study was not meant to compare the effects of vapor and cigarette smoke on human cells, but rather to show that vaping is not harmless, the fact that cells exposed to tobacco smoke extract died within 24 hours speaks volumes of the difference between vaping and smoking.

No one ever said electronic cigarettes were completely harmless. Non-smokers should stay away from them and any smoker considering switching to e-cigs should understand that they are still exposing themselves to risks, but according to considerable research, these risks are minimal when compared to smoking. Tobacco harm reduction is a thing, it’s just that some people simply refuse to accept that.

I should also point out an earlier study conducted by a team of German researchers which found that although human bronchial epithelial cells exposed  to e-cigarette vapor showed significantly lower cell viability as well as higher oxidative stress levels, they were far better off than cells exposed to cigarette smoke. “Cell viability was 4.5–8 times higher and the oxidative stress levels 4.5–5 times lower, depending on the cell donor,” researchers concluded.

One Comment/Review

  • Trisha says:
    1 stars

    This is bull. First of all, there are MANY different grades of quality when it comes to vapor. If you are vaping with GMO products or chemically made flavours of COURSE you are going to get cancer and of COURSE this is going to break down cells because this is the nature of these toxic products anyways. If you buy vape liquid made from organic vegitable gylcerine and organic juice flavour, you are NOT going to get the same results. You cheating asshole tabacco company sponsored scientists.

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