Vaping can cause cancer – but it’s still safer than smoking.
E-cigarettes that vaporize nicotine without producing smoke are becoming increasingly popular as people switch from regular cigarettes. Their rationale is that most of the damage caused by smoking is not caused by nicotine but by all of the other compounds in tobacco smoke.
However, new evidence suggests that nicotine itself and some of its by-products can also cause cancer. When human lung and bladder cells are grown in the laboratory, they become cancerous more quickly when exposed to nicotine compounds, according to the work of Moon-shong Tang of New York University. And mice that inhaled the vapor had DNA damage that can lead to cancer.
Even so, a major US report last week concluded that vaping is likely “far less harmful” than traditional cigarettes. This is a tipping point as US doctors, unlike the UK, were previously cautious about promoting vaping as a means of smoking cessation.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine review of over 800 studies found that e-cigarette use can help people quit smoking. On the other hand, they could also serve as a gateway to traditional smoking for teenagers.
Some studies have found that teenagers who vape are more likely to smoke – although it may only be that teenagers who start vaping when they are underage are more likely to be rebellious in other ways.
Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.1718185115
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