A study making headlines across the world claiming two e-cigarette products “damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer,” is under fire from a leading public health expert.
Conducted by a research team at the University of California, San Diego, the study investigated how e-cigarettes may contribute to the development and progression of a cancer known as head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
The research team “created an extract from the vapor of two popular brands of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in Petri dishes. Compared with untreated cells, the treated cells were more likely to show DNA damage and die.”
What was the result?
“The exposed cells showed several forms of damage, including DNA strand breaks. The familiar double helix that makes up DNA has two long strands of molecules that intertwine. When one or both of these strands break apart and the cellular repair process doesn’t work right, the stage is set for cancer.”
One of the study’s authors even went on to claim “they [e-cigarettes] are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.” Combined with a hyperbolic press release, the study has triggered a wave of headlines claiming vaping is just as dangerous as smoking.
But Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, with 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control has dissected the most sensational claims of both the researchers and headline writers.
In a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation, Siegel said, “this study confirms previous findings that e-cigarette vapor can cause damage to epithelial cell lines in culture, and that the damage caused by e-cigarette vapor is much lower than that caused by tobacco smoke. However, it cannot be concluded from this cell culture study that e-cigarette vapor actually has toxic or carcinogenic effects in humans who use these products.”
“In particular, the dose at which e-cigarette vapor was found to have an adverse effect was much higher than the actual dose that a vapor receives. Nevertheless, one of the co-authors concluded publicly that based on these results, e-cigarette use is no less hazardous than cigarette smoking.”
Siegel added that “not only is this conclusion baseless, but it is damaging to the public’s health. It undermines decades of public education about the severe hazards of cigarette smoking. To declare that smoking is no more hazardous than using e-cigarettes, a non-tobacco-containing product is a false and irresponsible claim.”
One of Siegel’s chief concerns about the misrepresentation of e-cigarettes is many ex-smokers who took up vaping may switch back to regular cigarettes if they believe there is no difference between the two. “This will cause actual human health damage, not merely damage to some cells in a laboratory culture,” says Siegel.
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