Use of vaping devices and sweet-flavored vape liquids linked to DNA damage in mouths of users

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Use of vaping devices and sweet-flavored liquids linked to DNA damage
More and more evidence is finding vaping can cause DNA level damage that can lead to disease.

On street corners and sidewalks across the Southland, people puffing clouds of flavored vapor is a familiar scene. But more and more evidence is finding vaping can cause DNA-level damage that can lead to disease.

Americans, particularly young adults, are trading in traditional cigarettes for pods and vape pens because many believe vaping is healthier than smoking.

"I feel like it's a lot safer than cigarettes," said Nicolas Brown. "I feel like it's safer than cigarettes because people who vape seem to be more active."

"These products are not harmless, and they're not risk free," said study author Ahmad Besaratinia, PhD and his colleagues at Keck School of Medicine of USC. They analyzed the oral epithelial cells of those who smoke and vape and those who don't. They found up to two and half times more DNA damage in the mouths of both vapers and smokers compared to non-users. And it didn't take long for the cellular changes to show up in e-cig users.

"Chronic use of a vape product even for several months would lead to biological consequences that are contributing to disease development, " said Besaratinia.

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Diseases such as cancer and other chronic conditions that are linked to smoking. USC researchers also discovered those who used newer devices such as pens and pods incurred the most DNA damage. And use of popular flavored liquids led to even more troubling news.

"Those who use sweet, flavored products had the highest levels of any damage as compared to non-users," said Besaratinia.

The harmful effects were not related to nicotine content. Despite mounting evidence that shows vaping can lead to disease, Brown said he won't quit.

"It wouldn' stop me from vaping. It's an addiction. A lot of people don't want to admit it. Vaping is highly addictive," he said.

Besaratinia and his team are already working on larger, long-term studies. But based on their previous research they believe the findings will show the more you vape, the more damage it will do.