Think e-cigarettes are safe? New studies show vaping leads to diseases like oral cancer

November 18, 2016 Providence Health Team

E-cigarettes are unhealthy.

That conclusion is emerging from a cloud of uncertainty and misleading suggestions that electronic cigarettes offer a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. New studies make it clear that even though e-cigs don’t contain tobacco, they still pose an array of dangers to your health.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center say their study was the first to examine the effect of e-cigarettes on oral health at the cellular level. They concluded that e-cigarettes are as damaging to the gums and teeth as conventional cigarettes.

“We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” said Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., a professor of environmental medicine and lead author of the study. “How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity.”

Another study out of Canada drew similar conclusions about the effects of e-cigs on oral cells.

“The adverse effects of e-cigarette vapor on gingival epithelial cells may lead to dysregulated gingival cell function and result in oral disease,” wrote the authors, led by Mahmoud Rouabhia, Ph.D., of the Universite Laval, Quebec.

The growth of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes convert liquids containing nicotine into vapor that smokers inhale. They have been widely marketed as safe alternatives to smoking. Providence and other health experts disagree.

Meera Jain, M.D., medical director of the Providence Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, called the claims of e-cigarette marketers “magical thinking.”

“The next time you find yourself or someone else wishing on a genie,” she wrote, “remind them that, when it comes to smoking, the only safe magic is to quit.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this spring it will treat e-cigarettes the same as it treats regular cigarettes, requiring manufacturers to carry warning labels and limit sales to minors.

“We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell.

Nevertheless, the market for e-cigarettes has exploded. Since they were introduced in 2004, they have fueled a market that was valued at $2.5 billion in 2014, according to The Tobacco Atlas.

Providence has many resources that can help you quit smoking traditional tobacco products as well as e-cigarettes. You can find a Providence provider here.

To read more

You can read some discussions about e-cigarettes in the Providence Health Library:

We’ve written before about the dangers of smoking:

The study, “E-cigarettes and flavorings induce inflammatory and pro-senescence responses in oral epithelial cells and periodontal fibroblasts,” was published in the journal Oncotarget. As an accompaniment, the University of Rochester Medical Center published the story “First-ever Study Shows E-cigarettes Cause Damage to Gum Tissue.”

Another study, “E-Cigarette Vapor Induces an Apoptotic Response in Human Gingival Epithelial Cells Through the Caspase-3 Pathway,” was published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

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