Science

E-cigarette: “Our study clearly shows that vaping is not without risk!”

What are the dangers of vaping? The electronic cigarette, long presented as a safe alternative to tobacco, is it therefore safe? The subject is sensitive, while this product is still poorly evaluated. However, while the electronic version appears to remain generally less dangerous than its cousin, the evidence for its harmfulness is accumulating as science advances. For the World Health Organization (WHO), there is little doubt about the harmfulness of electronic cigarettes. And a new study led by researchers at USC’s Keck School of Medicine in the United States reinforces this finding.

According to this work, published this Tuesday, November 23, in the Scientific Report magazine, vaping causes unwanted biological changes that can lead to the development of various diseases. Above all, researchers show that these side effects are directly related to e-cigarette use and not current or past tobacco use. An important demonstration, since as most vapers continue to smoke cigarettes or are ex-smokers, studies on the subject do not always distinguish between attacks caused by “vaping” and those caused by tobacco.

Genetic alterations related to vaping

“Our study was designed to detect changes in genetic regulation, at the genome level, in smokers and vapers, as these changes can inform us about the probability of developing diseases,” says Ahmad Besaratinia, professor of public health at the School of Medicine. Keck. and co-author of the study, interviewed by L’Express. Our results indicate that vaping is significantly associated with dysregulation of mitochondrial genes and disruption of molecular pathways involved in immunity and the inflammatory response, which may play a fundamental role in the development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases. and cancer. ”Furthermore, vaping is also linked to dysregulation of the functioning of lymphoid organs, such as the thymus and spleen, as well as peripheral blood leukocytes, particularly T cells and macrophages.

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Before reaching these conclusions, the researchers first recruited 82 healthy adults who were divided into three groups: current vapers, whether or not they are former cigarette smokers; those who smoke cigarettes exclusively; and a “control group” made up of people who have never smoked or vaped. They then conducted interviews with each participant in order to obtain a detailed history of their use. They then verified their statements by measuring the concentration of cotinine, resulting from the breakdown of nicotine, in the participants’ blood using biochemical analyzes. The researchers also tested, using bioinformatic analysis tools and genetic sequencing, whether the participants were subject to changes in gene regulation within blood cells. They also used a computer program capable of determining whether the genetic disorders detected in members of the first group (current vapers) were associated with the intensity and duration of their current e-cigarette use or with the intensity and duration of their e-cigarette use. duration of your previous smoking. “We have found that more than 80% of genetic disorders in vapers are correlated with the intensity and duration of their current use,” explains Prof. Besaratinia.

However, the researchers specify that these disorders are more present in smokers than in vapers. “We detected an average of 92 deregulated genes in vapers against 683 (7.4 times more) in smokers, specifies Ahmad Besaratinia. But 12.0% of the deregulated genes in vapers – 11 out of 92 – are of mitochondrial origin”, which is impressive when we know that the mitochondrial genome has only 37 genes. So our study clearly shows that vaping is not without risk. ”

In previous research, Ahmad Besaratinia and his team had already shown that vapers, like cigarette smokers, undergo molecular and genomic changes related to the development of cancers, including mouth cancers. According to him, the results of his new study confirm his old findings. In their next studies, the researchers plan to study the chemicals common to e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke and determine which can cause unwanted effects in smokers and vapers.

Does vaping help you quit smoking?

But even if that means choosing, wouldn’t the e-cigarette be a better option than tobacco? In France, the Academy of Medicine considers that it represents “a new opportunity, because its development is accompanied by a notable decrease in smoking in France”. The institute of the wise also started, in 2019, with a response to the WHO in which it recalls the proven advantages and the unduly alleged disadvantages of the electronic cigarette. “It is true that the new data indicates that when e-cigarettes are given free in the context of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), this is associated with an increase in smoking cessation, admits Professor Besaratinia. But a meta-analysis Recent shows, instead, that vaping ‘in real life’ does not help smokers to quit. Clearly, caution should be exercised when interpreting the results of RCTs, where the offer of free e-cigarettes is combined with approaches psychological support, such as behavioral counseling. In the real world, smokers face a very different set of challenges, temptations and realities. ”

In a report published in July 2021, the WHO, again, insisted on the need to “better regulate electronic inhalers” and limit their access to minors, while 84 countries still do not have specific legislation in this regard. In France, although the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes is prohibited to young people, around 200,000 minors start smoking each year. And in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 2 million middle and high school students vape. Finally, according to a study published in December 2019 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 75% of American teens who vape use liquids that contain addictive or psychotropic substances, such as nicotine, THC or CBD, or even mixtures of these substances.

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According to Professor Besaratinia, this is one of the main reasons why research on vaping is so important. “Given the popularity of e-cigarettes among those who have never smoked, our findings will be important to regulatory agencies,” he says. To improve public health, these agencies urgently need scientific evidence to inform the regulation of the manufacture, distribution and marketing of e-cigarettes. ”

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