Gum Damage, Oral Disease Add To Potential E-Cigarette Health Risks

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Electronic cigarettes are not risk-free and may contribute to gum damage and oral diseases, according to a new study looking at the health effects of vaping.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center published a study Nov. 16 in the journal Oncotarget that suggests liquid nicotine causes gum inflammation that is destructive to cells when burned. The liquid nicotine aggravates oral cells in a way that can lead to a variety of diseases. The impact on oral health depends on which flavor you use and how often you use the device, reports Science Daily.

Nicotine is already known to be harmful to gums and the other unknown chemicals found in liquid nicotine appear to have the same effect, the researchers note.

“We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” Irfan Rahman, a professor at the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry, says in the study. “How much and how often someone is smoking e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity.”

Health officials are increasingly concerned over the safety of electronic cigarettes due to growing reports showing potential dangers in liquid nicotine and the vaping devices themselves. The New England Journal of Medicine published a report Oct. 6 outlining the risk of “thermal runaway,” which occurs when the lithium-ion battery of the e-cigarette rapidly overheats and either ignites or explodes.

While many people who vape think of this risk as minimal or one-off accidents, health officials caution they are moderately common occurrences. Vanderbilt University Medical Center surgeon Dr. Callie Thompson, who contributed to the report, said she treats an average of one to two patients with e-cigarette burns a month.

In a separate study, doctors found evidence suggesting that strawberry-flavored nicotine fluid carried the most toxins. Regular cigarette smoke is still far more detrimental to health than e-cigarette fluid, but there are still concerns with its overall impact, researchers note that.

Research suggests that e-cigarettes are still an overwhelmingly safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, with no meaningful impact on others from the vapor exhaled from an e-cigarette, unlike the health risks of inhaling secondhand smoke.

An independent study found that using e-cigarettes is 95 percent safer than smoking, with e-cigarettes containing almost none of the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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