Research Journal Oncotarget Works to Answer “Are e-cigs a safer alternative to cigarette smoking?”


To read the original study in its full form, check out Oncotarget Volume 7 No 47 | E-cigarettes and flavorings induce inflammatory and pro-senescence responses in oral epithelial cells and periodontal fibroblasts – Isaac K. Sundar, et al

Dr. Rahman and collaborating researchers at the University of Rochester and Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine have illustrated, for the very first time, the true effects of e-cigarette (e-cig) vapors and flavorings on our dental health.
Besides being linked to various types of cancers, heart attack, and stroke; it is widely accepted that cigarette smoke causes serious damage to gums and teeth. For these reasons, e-cigs have risen in popularity. Most people consider them to be a healthier option as compared to cigarettes. Dr. Irfan Rahman and colleagues suggest e-cigs are just as damaging to oral health.

E-cigs are battery operated devices that use a heating element within a stainless steel shell, vaporizing a mixture of chemicals including nicotine and flavoring agents such as candy or fruit. Previous research has shown that aldehydes and carbonyls are also released during e-cig vaporization. They cause DNA damage and stress-induced cellular senescence (cessation of cell growth) promoting unhealthy inflammation.

The Researchers used a three-dimensional cell model made of human gingival tissue that allowed an in vitro (outside the body) experiment to use a structure comparable to one found in vivo (within the body). They subjected this model to vapors from e-cigs and found that these vapors, increased inflammation and DNA damage which leads to oral and periodontal health problems. This suggests that e-cigs negatively affect our body’s progenitor cells, an important type of cell similar to stem cells, but more specific in what type of cell they can differentiate into.

This study was supported by grants from the NIH

In a video interview with Oncotarget, Dr. Rahman discusses popcorn lung disease and its relation to e-cigs. Popcorn lung is an irreversible condition caused by diacetyl, the butter-flavored chemical found in popcorn and caramel products. This chemical has since been removed from popcorn recipes of major manufacturers, but is being used in e-cig flavorings, and may have very detrimental effects to lungs.
Dr. Rahman goes on to describe the false perceptions behind e-cigarette users, stating “The perception is that this will be less harmful, but it will cause levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, which will drive more periodontal disease”, adding “the extent of the damage by using these flavorings is more even than the conventional tobacco smoke”.

This paper has received extensive news coverage leading to substantial social media and blog attention. Up until this point, little research has been done on the true effects of e-cig vapors and flavorings.

Q. In response to an article written about the cover paper from Oncotarget Volume 7 Issue 47, Dr. Rahman discusses the health risks associated with e-cigs. The question was asked: Are e-cigarettes a much safer alternative to cigarette smoking?

A. No. Dr. Rahman and his colleagues illustrate that the vapors and flavorings in e-cigs cause increased DNA damage and inflammation that leads to detrimental oral health problems, similar to that of cigarette smoke causing damage to gums and teeth.

*Quotes taken from video interview with Dr. Rahman from Oncotarget