Vaping Linked to DNA Damage Similar to Smoking, Study Finds

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.20 - 2024 10:51 AM CET

Researchers at University College London have discovered that vaping can lead to similar DNA damage as smoking tobacco.

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Scientists are raising alarms about the potential dangers of vaping, noting it may cause similar DNA damage to traditional smoking, linked to lung cancer risks.

Amidst these concerns, government officials are pushing for stricter regulations on e-cigarettes, including bans aimed at protecting children from vaping and smoking.

A study conducted by researchers at University College London has unveiled that vaping is not as harmless as once thought. By analyzing 3,500 cheek cell samples, they discovered significant genetic alterations in both smokers and e-cigarette users. These changes are closely associated with lung cancer and other serious growths.

These genetic shifts were also present in individuals who had vaped but smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

Study Insights and Health Concerns

Dr. Chiara Herzog, the lead author of the study, cautioned, "We cannot definitively state that e-cigarettes cause cancer based on our findings, but we observed similar genetic alterations in e-cigarette users as in smokers. These alterations are linked to the development of lung cancer in smokers."

“While the scientific opinion is that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco, we cannot assume they are completely safe to use and it is important to explore their potential long-term risks and links to cancer,” she added.

New UK Bill Targets Young Smokers

The Department of Health is taking legislative action in response to recent findings. The newly proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill aims to combat smoking and vaping among youth by gradually increasing the legal purchasing age.

The bill includes additional measures, such as penalties for retailers who sell vapes to minors, restrictions on product design and flavors, and increased taxes on tobacco and e-cigarette products.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak affirmed the government's commitment, stating, “We are delivering on our commitment to create a smoke-free generation and stop our kids from getting hooked on harmful cigarettes and other nicotine products.”

Dr. Ian Walker from Cancer Research UK emphasized the importance of ending smoking to reduce preventable deaths in the UK.

“Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths in the UK than ending smoking," he noted. "This study contributes to our understanding of e-cigarettes, but it does not show that e-cigarettes cause cancer. Decades of research have proven the link between smoking and cancer, and studies have shown that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and can help people quit," Walker explained.

However, he added, “This paper highlights that e-cigarettes are not risk-free, and so we need additional studies to uncover their potential longer-term impacts on human health.”

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