Vaping 'no better' than smoking regular cigarettes

An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK use the devices

Vaping could be “no better” than smoking regular cigarettes and may be linked to cancer, scientists have found.

The study which showed that vapour from e-cigarettes can damage or kill human cells was publsihed as the devices are to be rolled out by UK public health officials as an aid to quit smoking from 2016.

An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK currently use e-cigarettes.

The study involved exposing human cells with both nicotine-based and nicotine-free e-cigarette vapour.

Researchers found that the cells which had not come into contact with vapour were more likely to become damaged or die than those which had not.

The paper, which was published in the Oral Oncology journal, concluded that the tests “strongly suggest” that electronic cigarettes are “not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public.”

"Vapourised e-cig liquids induce increased DNA strand breaks and cell death.”

Dr Jessica Wang-Rodriguez, chief of pathology at the San Diego branch of the US Department of Veteran Affairs and co-author of the research said “evidence to date” suggested that e-cigarettes are “no better than smoking regular cigarettes."

She explained that many studies have shown that nicotine can damage cells, however her team's study indicates that other components in e-cigarettes may be carginogenic.

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"For now, we were able to at least identify that e-cigarettes on the whole have something to do with increased cell death," she said. 

However, Dr Wang-Rodriguez stressed that the results may not replicate the processes in the human body, as the amount of vapour used was "similar to someone smoking for hours on end".

Further researcher is now needed to determine the long-term effects of vaping, as well as whether the DNA damage will lead to mutations that result in cancer.  

The research is part of an effort to pinpoint whether e-cigarettes are harmful, as the industry has grown rapidly in the past few years.

Recent research from Harvard University on 51 e-cigarette liquids found that some of the chemical components can cause a rare condition called 'popcorn lung'.

The irreversible, life-threatening disease narrows the airways in the lungs and weakens the organs by causing scarring or inflammation.

The studies follows a report from Public Health England (PHE) which said vaping was 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. Mr Cameron responded by telling the House of Commons that e-cigarettes are “a very legitimate" way of improving public health.

However, experts criticised the claim and said the study was based on poor quality evidence, with some links to the tobacco industry.

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: "While Public Health England will carefully consider new studies and continue to be vigilant, the wider body of evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.

"Our recent world-leading review found that e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoking - the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, including carcinogens, are either absent in e-cigarette vapour or are at significantly lower levels than tobacco smoke.

"The best thing a smoker can do is quit completely now and forever, and we need to provide smokers with accurate, balanced information on different quitting methods.

"Last year, two out of three smokers who combined e-cigarettes with expert support from a local service quit successfully. Smokers who have struggled to quit in the past could try vaping, and vapers should stop smoking."

Additional reporting by PA

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