Electronic cigarettes have taken a pounding in the press lately. First there was the revelation that the liquid nicotine in the device is poisonous and potentially deadly if consumed. Then there was the horrifying story of an e-cig exploding in a bar in the UK—not the first time this has happened.
Now to cap it off, one of the first studies to look at the biological effects of the digital nicotine sticks found "striking similarities" between the effect of vaporized e-liquid and tobacco smoke on human cells. Further study is needed, but the similarity suggests vaping could increase the risk of cancer, despite being tobacco-free.
"They may be safer [than tobacco], but our preliminary studies suggest that they may not be benign,” said study author Avrum Spira, a genomics and lung cancer researcher at Boston University. The study was published in Nature and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting this week.
Researchers studied bronchial cells in a culture medium. They found that when the cells were exposed to e-cig vapor containing nicotine they showed similar gene mutations as the cells exposed to tobacco smoke, and determined to be at risk of becoming cancerous.
The next step is to test the genes altered by e-cig vapor to see if they too show potential carcinogenicity.