World No Tobacco Day: Cancer risk after few months of vaping, study finds

E-cigarettes and vapes lead to a surge in oral bacteria linked to gum disease and cancer

Evidence of the damage caused by vapes and e-cigarettes has grown steadily. Getty Images
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Smokers who take up vaping to quit cigarettes are putting themselves at risk of oral disease and cancer, a new study found.

The harmful effects of vaping can be seen in just a few months after switching to e-cigarettes, scientists at Ohio State University concluded.

The results helped evaluate their future risk of gum disease and cancer.

"Vaping is such a big assault on the oral environment, and the change happens dramatically and over a short period of time," said study author Purnima Kumar, professor of periodontology.

You're not doing yourself any favours by using vaping to quit smoking

"Knowing the vaping profile is pathogen-rich, you're not doing yourself any favour by using vaping to quit smoking."

Scientists found microbes similar to what they would expect to find in people with periodontitis, a gum infection that can result in tooth loss.

The condition is also a risk factor for heart and lung disease.

Pressurised liquids used in e-cigarette cartridges were suspected of being the possible cause of creating a dangerous combination of microbes.

The results dismiss claims that vaping reduces the harm caused by smoking traditional tobacco.

"If you stop smoking and start vaping instead, you don't move back towards a healthy bacterial profile but shift to the vaping profile," said Dr Kumar.

Researchers collected plaque samples from under the gums of 123 people who showed no current signs of oral disease.

Many smokers alternate between vapes and cigarettes, putting themselves at high risk of cancer and heart disease. Getty
Many smokers alternate between vapes and cigarettes, putting themselves at high risk of cancer and heart disease. Getty

The study was conducted among 25 smokers, 25 non-smokers, 20 e-cigarette users, 25 former smokers using e-cigarettes and 28 people who smoked and vaped at the same time.

Sequencing of DNA was also taken from the bacteria samples to identify what their functions were and the potential damage they could cause.

Results from young vapers aged between 21 and 35 who had used e-cigarettes for four to 12 months were most concerning, the scientists said.

They also found the longer a person had vaped, the greater the oral immunity was compromised against damaging bacteria.

“This research supports what we already know about the connection of vaping and e-cigarettes to poor dental hygiene leading to pathogenic bacteria colonising the oral cavity,” said Dr Sunil Vyas, a pulmonologist at Aster Hospital, in Dubai’s Al Qusais area.

“This leads to more damaging effects to the teeth, gum and gingiva, which in turn leads to increased lung disease by aspiration and cardiac disease.”

The research has been published in the journal Science Advances and supports the World Health Organisation's latest message calling for greater protection for young people against taking up smoking and e-cigarettes on World No Tobacco Day, May 31.

The WHO-backed campaign aims to provide a counter-marketing message to give young people the facts about tobacco and e-cigarettes.

It has criticised the industry’s use of flavoured e-cigarettes and sleek product design.

Big Tobacco companies and the vaping industry has also been slammed for using influencers and celebrities to promote harmful nicotine-related paraphernalia.

The UAE legalised the sale of e-cigarettes in April 2019.

Dr Vyas said the damage to oral health is not something always considered by young people who take up smoking or vaping.

“E-cigarettes can deliver nicotine at levels comparable to conventional cigarettes in addition to other potentially toxic aerosol components,” he said.

"We have seen other recent studies published in The Journal of California of Dental Association that show up to half of US periodontal disease cases can be attributed to tobacco use.

“Damage to the periodontium from smoking at least partly results from nicotine exposure.”