A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has concluded that nicotine used in electronic cigarettes may damage DNA in a similar way as smoke from conventional cigarettes, resulting in an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
The study was conducted by researchers from the New York University School of Medicine seeking to understand the potential long-term health effects of e-cigarette use through animal testing.
For their study, researchers exposed mice to e-cigarette smoke (ECS) for 12 weeks at a dose and duration that would be equivalent to light e-cigarette use for 10 years as a human. By the end of their study, the researchers noted that the smoke had caused DNA damage to the mice’s lungs, bladders, and hearts.
The study’s authors say the evidence indicates that nicotine can convert to a carcinogen once it is inside the human body, going against conventional wisdom that nicotine is mostly innocent when compared to other chemicals and toxins used in conventional cigarettes.
The authors of the study hope their research will help drive home the fact that vaping, especially among young people, is not harmless and that healthcare professionals are still working to understand the potential long-term consequences.
Currently, about 18 million Americans use e-cigarettes. Surprisingly, high school students make up 16 percent of those users.
While manufacturers have advertised e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, studies examining the long-term consequences of e-cigarette use have been mixed. In 2016, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy designated e-cigarette use by young Americans a “major public health concern,” citing a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students.
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