The global e-cigarette market is set to be worth $32 billion by 2021, and with the UK share reaching almost $6 billion, this alternative to tobacco cigarettes is increasingly popular among smokers.
But the research into the health implications, and dangers, of electronic cigarettes, are still much debated by medical scientists.
Now a new study has added to the growing evidence that e-cigarettes, or vaping, is not as harmless as was once hoped, and in fact could be on par with the damage done by inhaling unfiltered tobacco.
The study from the University of Connecticut found that e-cigarettes, loaded with nicotine-based liquid, are potentially as harmful when it comes to causing cellular mutations and DNA damage.
Changes which may lead to diseases such as cancer.
The amount of damage depends on the amount of vapour the user inhales, the other additives present, whether nicotine or non-nicotine liquid is used.
Karteek Kadimisetty, a researcher and the study’s lead author said: “Some people use e-cigarettes heavily because they think there is no harm. We wanted to see exactly what might be happening to DNA, and we had the resources in our lab to do that.”
They found that the potential DNA damage from e-cigarettes increased with the number of puffs, and speculate that this damage is a result of the many chemical additives added to e-cigarettes and present in the vapours.
The ingredients usually present in e-cigs are propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine and other flavourings.
The study seems to contradict advice given by Public Health England (PHE) last year, which said vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco. At the time, PHE called for GPs to be able to prescribe e-cigarettes on the NHS to help people quit smoking.
Frequently viewed as a less toxic alternative for people looking to break their habit of smoking tobacco cigarettes, modern e-cigarettes have steadily risen in popularity since they first appeared on the commercial market in 2004.
Back in 2016, a study also showed that vaping is as bad for heart health, as smoking, as the average vaping session caused similar damage to the heart, and aorta.