Cigarettes Potentially as Harmful as Tobacco

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Researchers at the University of CT found evidence that electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, may be as harmful as tobacco cigarettes.

In the University of CT study, researchers used a specialized device to test how inhaling both nicotine-based liquid and vapor from non-nicotine e-cigarettes could damage DNA at the cellular level.

In the current study, the researchers extracted samples from e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes using an artificial inhalation technique.

Researchers also found that the vapour from non-nicotine e-cigs caused as much DNA damage as filtered cigarettes, potentially due to the chemical additives present in the vapours.

Karteek Kadimisetty, postdoctoral researcher at UConn and lead author of the study, said: 'From the results of our study, we can conclude that e-cigarettes have as much potential to cause DNA damage as unfiltered regular cigarettes'.

The team at UConn created a low-priced 3D-printed electro-optical screening device that quickly detects carcinogenic chemicals that may cause DNA damage from e-cigarette vapor.

According to one of the researchers, the amount of DNA damage all depends on the amount of vapor a person inhales with e-cigarettes, as well as other additives present and whether nicotine or non-nicotine liquid is used.

The device uses icropumps to push liquid samples across multiple "microwells" embedded in a small carbon chip.

Cellular mutations caused by DNA damage can lead to cancer. Reactions between the metabolites and the DNA generate light that is captured by a camera. "We wanted to see exactly what might be happening to DNA (as a result of e-cigarette usage)", said Kadimisetty.

The device is unique in that it converts chemicals into their metabolites during testing, which replicates what happens in the human body, Kadimisetty says.

Within five minutes, users can see how much relative DNA damage a sample produces by the intensity of the light detected in each well, researchers said. They found that smoking cigarettes decreased the expression of 53 genes important in the immune response of epithelial cells that line the upper airway of the respiratory tract, but e-cigarettes suppressed them even more.

"What we developed is very cheap to make, efficient, and can be used by nearly anyone", James Rusling, chemistry professor at UConn, said. More specifically: About 20 puffs from an e-cigarette equated roughly to an unfiltered cigarette, according to the study. Cigarettes were connected to a tube that contained a cotton plug. The potential DNA damage from e-cigarettes was found to increase with the number of puffs. On the other hand, a separate study from the Penn State College of Medicine found that people who use e-cigarettes are actually less dependent on the product than traditional smokers are to cigarettes.