Vaping May Damage Cells Less Than Smoking

Broken cigarette on top of electronic cigaretteLaboratory tests of cells exposed to vapors from electronic cigarettes found no cell damage, though cells exposed to cigarette smoke showed extensive damage, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology. The study looked at cells in vitro—outside of the body in a laboratory setting.

Scientists from British American Tobacco, a company that sells both tobacco products and e-cigarettes, performed and reported on the research.

Could Vaping Cause as Much Damage as Smoking?

Researchers exposed a variety of cell cultures to vapors from the Vype ePen, a product produced and distributed by the company associated with the study. They also exposed similar cells to cigarette smoke and a control group to neither vapors nor smoke. Cell damage—which is often a precursor to cancer and other diseases—can be assessed in a number of ways, so the team looked at several.

In one test, cells showed signs of stress, including inflammation and antioxidant response, when exposed to cigarette smoke. Cells exposed to vapors or nothing showed no signs of such stress. Another measure of cell damage—DNA breakage—can be a precursor to cancer, but only cells exposed to cigarette smoke showed this symptom. Cigarette smoke caused cells to clump together and grow in abnormal groups, but vapors did not.

Other E-cigarette Research

The study was authored by scientists sponsored by a company in the interest of the study’s outcome, raising concerns about researcher bias. Other studies have shown different results, and safety assessments of e-cigarettes remain mixed. Another 2016 in vitro study published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine found vaping could damage cells in the airway. The same study also found vaping decreased functioning in neutrophils and macrophages—important immune cells.

Conversely, Linda Bauld, a professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, recently wrote in The Guardian that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as smoking. Bauld pointed to misleading headlines and problematic research methodologies. She also argued in vitro studies are of limited value, because they do not show how cells behave in the body.

Because e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, which is the primary health concern associated with smoking, manufacturers have claimed they are safe. Even if e-cigarettes are less dangerous than smoking, the chemicals they produce may pose some dangers.

References:

  1. Bauld, L. (2015, December 31). No, there’s still no evidence e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2015/dec/31/no-theres-still-no-evidence-e-cigarettes-are-as-harmful-as-smoking
  2. Griffin, R. M. (n.d.). E-Cigarettes: Health and safety issues. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/features/electronic-cigarettes
  3. Hwang, J. H., Lyes, M., Sladewski, K., Enany, S., Mceachern, E., Mathew, D. P., . . . Alexander, L. E. (2016). Electronic cigarette inhalation alters innate immunity and airway cytokines while increasing the virulence of colonizing bacteria. Journal of Molecular Medicine. doi:10.1007/s00109-016-1378-3
  4. In-vitro testing of Vype vapour revealed no cell stress, DNA damage or malignant transformation. (2016, March 15). Retrieved from http://www.bat-science.com/groupms/sites/BAT_9GVJXS.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DOA7GFSZ?opendocument

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  • Adam

    Adam

    March 16th, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    No matter what there is going to be some damage whether it is thru baling or smoking. The question becomes how much and how much are you willing to sacrifice to get that fix. I wish that it wasn’t something that we would even have to think about but the truth is that nicotine has gotten the best of a whole lot of people so there will always be that search for something to curb their urge to smoke.

  • Tyler

    Tyler

    March 16th, 2016 at 2:55 PM

    still a big if, glad I could stop cold turkey so far

  • Ken

    Ken

    March 16th, 2016 at 7:27 PM

    Whether or not there is a minute amount of harm associated with it as long as it’s less than smoking… I smoked for 22 years for two years straight I tried to quit via all the approved methods, multiple attempts with most of them, nothing and I mean nothing worked, when I was done with the patch I was actually smoking more!! Finally I gave vaping a shot, Feb 1st 2016 was my 1 year cigarette free anniversary, all you anti nicotine zeolots can go to hell, vaping works when everything else failed!

  • Kris

    Kris

    March 17th, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    My fear with this is that you are simply replacing one bad habit with another?
    I know that quitting smoking must be hard and I am not a smoker so I try to have sympathy with that.
    But I also know that vaping is a pretty new thing ( I think anyway) and so I would be careful about trading in the cigarettes for that so quickly.
    I mean you know what the dangers are with cigarettes. Do we know what all they are yet with vape sticks?

  • Lois

    Lois

    March 18th, 2016 at 11:09 AM

    Did these have to be FDA approved before putting on the market? Just curious.

  • glen R

    glen R

    March 21st, 2016 at 7:53 AM

    I just don’t know how I feel about this. I know that you could be replacing one with another but for some people this is a life or death thing and if one is a little better for you than the other then I have to think that the safest thing to do would be to go that route.

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