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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

E-cigarettes are as big a health risk as the real thing
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

E-cigarettes are as big a health risk as the real thing image

Electronic cigarettes aren’t quite the safe option everyone thinks. They cause the same amount of damage to our teeth and gums as conventional cigarettes, and the vapour from e-cigarettes kills up to 50 per cent of cells in the mouth that are our first line of defence, two new studies have found.

It was always thought that the chemicals in conventional cigarettes were causing the damage to our health, but the vapours from e-cigarettes are every bit as dangerous, researchers from the University of Rochester's medical center have discovered.

The vapours are triggering a sequence of inflammatory responses in the mouth that can cause oral diseases, and the damage is worse with flavoured e-cigarettes, the researchers have found. The e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which also causes gum disease, they point out.

Vapour from the cigarettes can kill up to 53 per cent of cells in the mouth after three days, a separate study has found. After a day, 18 per cent of mouth cells were killed or were dying and this rose to 40 per cent after two days' exposure, say researchers from Universite Laval in Quebec.

The vapour is killing epithelium cells, which are the mouth's first line of defence against infection, say the researchers. Although e-cigarettes don't contain tar compounds that are in regular cigarette smoke, the vapours still contain compounds that can damage the cells.

Although it's not clear what the long-term damage to e-cigarette smoking might be, the researchers say they are very concerned about their discoveries. "Damage to the defensive barrier in the mouth can increase the risk of infection, inflammation and gum disease, and over the longer term it may also increase the risk of cancer," said lead researcher Mahmoud Rouabhia.


(Sources: Oncotarget, 2016; doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12857 (gum damage study); Journal of Cellular Physiology, 2016; doi: 10.1002/jcp.25677 (mouth cells study)

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