E-cig expert says we have ‘clues’ to how vaping will affect people 50 years down the line
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It may be hard to believe that there was once a time when doctors recommended particular brands of cigarettes on TV adverts.
We didn’t start coming round to the idea that smoking was bad for us until the 1950s and 1960s, when mounting evidence increasingly linked it to lung cancer.
E-cigarettes haven’t been around for very long, so it’s impossible to say what complications a lifelong vaper might encounter in old age.
But this doesn’t mean we’re back to the days of blissful ignorance enjoyed by smokers in the 1930s, as research has moved on considerably, explains vaping researcher Lynne Dawkins.
“If cigarettes were introduced to the market today, we'd know straight away that these are extremely harmful because technology and methods have improved so much,” she tells LADbible.
“We now know that there are 7,000 different compounds in tobacco smoke, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
“We can do the same with the vapour, and we have found some detectable levels of potentially harmful compounds, but they’re so much lower.
“From that, we can kind of extrapolate that the long-term effects are going to be nowhere near as harmful as smoking.”
Studies show exposure to vapour produces biomarkers – objectively measurable biological characteristics – indicating some carcinogenic compounds and a risk of respiratory disease, says Dr Dawkins, who is a member of Drug Science's scientific committee, which investigates scientific evidence relating to psychoactive drugs.
While it has been shown to produce ‘changes in the structure and function of lung cells’, she says that ‘based on what we do know’ the risks are still ‘far lower than from smoking’.
A dentist recently explained the damage vaping can do to your teeth, but Dr Dawkins says this is nothing compared to the damage caused by traditional cigarettes.
She notes that the two main ingredients in e-liquids – vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol – can be an ‘irritant’ on the airways, giving people a cough, and dry throats and mouths.
While plenty of research is being carried out into potential problems caused by flavourings, Dr Dawkins says: “At this stage, there’s nothing alarming going on, but we just don’t have all the answers yet.
“I guess my key message would be that with all this focus on vaping, we forget how very harmful smoking is – it kills more than 8 million people a year globally.
“We can think about how harmful vaping is, but we're talking about characterising that 5 per cent of the residual harm when smoking is still a massive public health problem across the globe.”