[No BS edition] Does e-Cigarette smoke cause cancer? News outlets misleading people again

in science •  9 months ago

This is a little different to my usual posts (development, politics), however after reading various news stories that seemed to be making false claims, or otherwise cherry picking parts of the study, I wanted to try to clarify the results from the actual paper.

British news outlets are exaggerating the health risks again

A few friends have sent me various articles showing how e-cigarette smoke causes cancer[1] [2], and many of the articles used rather badly extrapolated claims such as

e-cigarettes might be just as bad as cigarettes

I'm personally questioning whether this kind-of news is funded by tobacco companies to reduce the amount of people switching to e-cigarettes...

I decided to cut the BS and go straight to the study:

E-cigarette smoke damages DNA and reduces repair activity in mouse lung, heart, and bladder as well as in human lung and bladder cells - from the Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS)

What is in e-juice?

One of the first questions that came to mind, was: what chemical is actually causing the cancer?

E-Juice is a cocktail of several chemicals

  • Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
  • Propylene Glycol (PG)
  • Artificial and/or natural flavourings
  • Nicotine, which can range from 0mg (none at all), to 24mg+ per ml (very high). An ex-smoker may use 12mg/ml in "cig-a-like" or starter devices, while those that move onto "mods" can drop down to 3mg or 1.5mg per ml.

All e-juices contain a different ratio and combination of these chemicals. However, most news outlets in the UK were unclear to blame it on a specific chemical. This led me to believe that they never actually understood the study and were just jumping on the hysteria bandwagon.

So what actually is causing cancer?

At first I thought it may be related to Propylene Glycol, which has a rather iffy reputation, despite being classified by the FDA as a safe food additive.

The answer is: Nicotine. So it's not just vaping alone, it's vaping with nicotine which causes cancer.

Nicotine and its nitrosation product
 4-(methylnitrosamine)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone can cause the same 
effects as ECS and enhance mutations and tumorigenic cell transformation 
in cultured human lung and bladder cells. 

Problems with the study

One of the first issues with this study is that it was done on live mice, but only human tissue cells (in-vitro).

Check out this news report on why using animals for these studies is inaccurate. tl;dr; they tested a drug on research animals (most likely mice) which seemed to work great, but in humans... "all six patients who had taken the drug were hospitalized; one is brain-dead". Understanding that mice and humans are not exactly the same, shows how this study could be inaccurate due to the lack of in-vivo testing on humans.

As some may know, claims based off of an in-vitro study are sometimes proven to be false. Taking the carcinogenic metabolites of nicotine and placing them directly into the cells is very clearly going to cause tumour growth. In the human body, there may be a much lower level of those metabolites across the body, and there is of course the immune system to factor in.

Results obtained from in vitro experiments cannot usually be 
transposed, as is, to predict the reaction of an entire organism in vivo

To top it off, the study was performed with a pretty high level of nicotine (for mice).

Mice were exposed to ECS (10 mg/mL, 3 h/d, 5 d/wk) for 12 wk; 
the dose and duration equivalent in human terms 
to light E-cig smoking for 10 y.

10mg/ml isn't exactly "light" for a human. While many ex-smokers may start with 18mg, many lower to 6mg or even 3mg within a few weeks/months. With mice having much smaller bodies and possibly faster metabolisms, 10mg/ml could be equivalent to a human dose of 24mg/ml or higher (which is the kind-of nicotine dose for someone who smokes several packs a day...). I find this dosage concerning. It may have been used to attempt to "simulate" the 10 years of vaping, but at the same time, using a higher dosage could introduce errors into their results.

What causes cancer?

Cancer is generally caused by mutations in a cell which causes it to replicate uncontrollably into a tumour. In some cases these can be caused by genetic defects at birth.

In many cases, the human immune system is capable of fighting many of these tumours naturally, otherwise we'd be getting cancer pretty quickly, given that cells in your body replicate millions of times a day.

This of course brings us back to how they were attempting to artificially re-create 10 years of vaping by increasing the nicotine dosage to something pretty high. As I've just explained, the human body (and other animals) can fight tumours naturally. However, in this study, they were using a high dosage of nicotine to "simulate" 10 years in the span of just 12 weeks.

By using such a high dosage, this would cause a higher rate of genetic defects in a shorter period of time. This means that the mouse's immune system has less time to attempt to fight the tumour growth. Without taking the immune system into account, claims such as "this would cause cancer within 10 years" may be overblown.

Assuming that a human usually vapes less than 10mg/ml, and probably doesn't vape for 3 hours per day (the mice were exposed to 10ml/mg for 3hrs a day, 5 days a week), this could mean a much lower rate of genetic defects, as well as plenty of time for the immune system to attempt to kill the defective cells.

Is it as bad as smoking cigarettes?

Despite what most media outlets seem to be pulling from this paper, the resounding answer is NO.

While the NNAL level in E-cig smokers is 97% lower than 
in tobacco smokers, nonetheless, it is significant 
higher than in nonsmokers

The carcinogenicity of e-cigarette smoke is 97% lower than tobacco. This is with all of the potential flaws that I've explained above. With a higher quality study, possibly with humans, it could be found to be 99% lower than tobacco.

Yes, it may cause cancer (the study was only performed on live mice, and in-vitro human cells, so there is no clear evidence on human subjects), but in no way does this show it being "as bad as cigarettes" as some news articles are claiming.

To clarify these results: using e-cigarettes does NOT cause cancer in itself (as you can get 0mg nicotine juice). BUT, if your e-juice contains nicotine, then you may be increasing your risk (but nowhere near as bad as smoking tobacco).

If you use a vaping device, you can reduce your risk by lowering your nicotine dose, or removing it all together.

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Most "news articles" these days are just paid-for propaganda pieces. I don't believe anything I read in major outlets because it's practically impossible to know if you're being subtly manipulated by crafty misrepresentations and half-truths.

I shouldn't have to say anything but I guess this image tells it all.

458033-42516-3.jpg

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Got to love my vape, fuchai 213 with Smok baby beast tank....

15173325035691876398221.jpg

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Nice :)

I have a Predator 228 + VGOD Elite RDTA, as well as a Rogue USA mech mod with the Geekvape Tsunami RTA.

What's that juice?

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Its Treats by Marina Vape, a fruity pebbles rice crispy treat, vanilla bean ice cream, sandwhich. My all time favorite. I can vape about 120ml a week if i dont pay attention lol

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I have the same problem with Laffy, by Clown. I had 6x 10ml bottles last Tuesday. 4 of them were used by Friday, and savouring the last 2 until my next order arrives.

I ordered some 60ml bottles, but I'm sure they'll be gone in no time.

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I realized if i dont watch myself i end up spending more $ than when i was smoking cig's.... Id rather save my $ for silver lol

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One day you will regret it

Of course i can't say outrightly that smoking is bad ,but i feel like too much of everything is bad, so if you do smoke, do it moderately.Health is wealth.

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Everything good in life will kill you in some way.

Bacon? Cancer
Alcohol? Cancer
Smoking? Cancer

And the things that are "healthy", can still kill you.

Lettuce? E. Coli
Nuts? Deadly allergic reactions, high sodium
Fruit? Parasites, high sugar, and various diseases to be caught from them.

Pick your poison, but enjoy responsibly.

Thank you for dissecting another piece of garbage propaganda by another media outlet.

Clearly e-cigs are much better than smoking regular tar filled cigs.. my lord the tar!

A well done dismantling of that article on the report "findings".

A lot of these labs are hired by the same company with interests in mind to defame a product, that then go on to hire the media to furthur push a certain opinion to mold public thought.... was the case with marijuana.

Can car crash kill you? Does it hurt to be beaten up? Can Vape cause cancer? Man up... If u smoke and enjoy it, be prepared to pay. You might, you might not.Wake_Up_meme.jpg

Informative post but smoking is dangerous to one health majorly cancer ,depression in the future. Life is short,someone have to use it wisely.nice post

Good work i am following you

Glad to see some vape defenders around here! I forgot the exact figure, but I believe at a little over 400 degrees Fahrenheit you get formaldehyde and other weird shit produced when you burn the... okay, I just looked up a link and now I'm even more confused than I was before.

https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/14771/how-does-propylene-glycol-glycerin-form-formaldehyde-acetaldehyde-when-vaporized

Not knocking vaping, personally I vape for harm reduction, just throwing this out there.

Well, on my earlier point, we see that (I mean it's logical if you think about it) heat itself is actually one of the factors that cause cells to have problems fixing damage done to them, so to be on the safe side you should aim for a cooler vape temp.

And yes, vaping is a more effective tool for reduction or cessation than patches, gums, or any other treatment available from "friendly" pharma companies.

Oh, and some flavors are actually harmful but lots of companies making the liquids have phased out some of them as a precaution, I guess I could find links on that if anyone wants, or you can search for them yourself. The specs I looked at indicated that a lot of nut/spice/peppermint type flavors were on the more potentially dangerous side (fruit flavors are a safe choice in general it seems), as well as the old cream-type flavors that hardly anyone uses anymore.

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Thankfully with e-liquids designed for high-power devices (like the ones I use), they contain only as much as 10-30% of PG, compared to the kind designed for low power devices which can contain between 50-100% PG.

Some vape juices go as far as being 100% VG, however this can be problematic for certain flavours, and can make it difficult to dissolve nicotine.

what do you think about it ?
plese! let stop
if you don't want die.thuoc-la-bb-baaacLXGNG.png

@someguy123
Talking to someone might be just as bad as beating someone up!
While the level of violence and hurting in telling someone the truth is 97% lower than in beating someone half to death, nonetheless, it is SIGNIFICANT higher than in not talking to people and never leaving home.

I'll try to explain here. We already had this good discussion in our community pt. It is a complex subject and involves several subjects at the same time. To stay on the line, it is important to note that all medical research has ** Levels of Evidence **. It has several types of study / research as well. Biomedicine has followed a path that is called evidence-based medicine, this site of Oxford, explains a little of that. The meta-analysis is more important, for a study to have credibility in the scientific community. That's why blockchain has great potential in the medical field. An isolated study first has to evaluate which type, then the variables, then the number of people, and several other aspects. If there is no production, there is no counter argument. Science is done like this. Sites such as scielo, in my country,has gather studies, which are then taken to metanalysis, being considered the type of study. And the risk and protection factors, will be evidenced after analysis of multiple studies reliable by the specialists of the area. Many studies are strongly criticized in the community, the vast majority of them, and there is a very demanding regulation nowadays to publish a study. These studies by the press, to a great extent are sensationalists, as the traditional press does. Scientific journals such as Jama, and New England Journal of Medicine. They are periodical, demanding and well-respected in the scientific community.I'm not from that area. So I do not know much about the repercussion of the e-cigarette. But I know that only time and study will give us this result. I find it difficult to be the same as conventional cigarettes, but I find it very difficult not to do any harm. In life everything that interferes with the biological has repercussion, food is a great example. It is up to individuals to have their choice to expose themselves to risks. Who knows who knows about programming, do not make a scientific community decentralized, with income, and rigid in relation to research. Since the journals quoted, and many other scientists have to pay to have access.

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I completely agree. Many news networks make their money through advertisements. Scary headlines are just better at bringing in a larger audience. Many studies, not just one, are needed to determine the dangers involved in anything. I think any article making such a large claim should cite multiple studies to back up their point.

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They must! The bibliography is very important. And with good references! But we still need to produce a lot and get to know a lot to evolve in these areas. And that's just a hit and miss. They should and are not always, well-supervised so as not to be unethical and to endanger human lives.

I know people who buy e-cigarette with too high percentage of nicotine and others dont even smoke but buy it just because they to see the smoke out .
hope one the whole industry of cigarettes collapse and people will be aware enough about their long-term health and forget about this shitty temporary pleasure.
Good point @someguy123 steeeeeem on

I can't imagine inhaling vegetable glycerin is any better than regular smoke. Plus I've seen too many pictures of people who had those blow up in their face. But what do I know, I still can't quit smoking ;)

You gotta love the misinformation that gets spread daily. This happens everywhere, from the food we eat, pharmaceuticals vs natural medicine that actually sometimes works, etc. etc. This one is actually a bit of a surprise, pretty stealthy because when people first read it they'll think "obviously" but glad you dug a little deeper. E-cig is disrupting the existing, hugely profitable, cigarette industry, and they don't like it.

Better fudge some studies a bit! Typical

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Yep, as soon as I read "e-cigarettes may be more harmful than cigarettes", I was triggered.

Every news outlet in the UK is covering how "dangerous" e-cigarettes are based on this study, completely skipping over the last part where they show they are 97% less dangerous. That's a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE.

If we consider that it often takes 20-30 years of smoking before developing a cancer, with e-cigarettes being 97% less carcinogenic, it could be that you never develop a tumour until you're 70 years old...

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Ya, 97% jeez... I've never tried e-cigs, but they seem obviously better based on ingredients. I stick to greener pastures, not sure the rate of cancer for that

Thanks for the post .I’m thinking about giving up smoking ,and I seen the scary post on Facebook saying it was bad .as I just got an e cig my self and was worried about it so thank you for your post

"Wait we can't trust the news? They are biased towards whoever pays them the most money? It can't be!" said some sheep

Then those that think for ourselves look at this and say, "hmm no surprise they manipulated the conversation by selecting tidbits."

Thanks for the informative post, my dad was a smoker for decades but has moved to e-cigarettes now.

It rages me beyond belief when the media totally exaggerates the truth. The worst part is the majority of the general public fall for it all.

Society really needs to work on their critical thinking skills haha.

I saw your post or something. glad to be acquainted with you . Please follow and vote for me offline

Great post. I'm a ex- smoker and now I vape.... its really a no brainer. Informative article and I appreciate the insight.

This same question will continue to trend in our community.. But in my opinion will just advice people to stop abusing cigarette even though it has both pros and cons to human health

I did some little digging in google scholar after seeing your interesting post and found that e-cigarettes have slightly lower toxicity profile than tobacco cigarettes. But as old wisdom goes.. its better not to smoke at all if you want 100% assurance that e-cigarettes are safe. My take on this is no they are NOT safe if you take this for long-term even if it has small level of nicotine and other additives in it. But I have to say that there is no any definitive data or extensive research work to support whether it is good or bad. Till then keep vaping because this is a good way to quite smoking if you are a heavy smoker. Here is a nice review paper on : Will chronic e-cigarette use cause lung disease?

Hi @someguy123 I can see your effort and hardwork that's why I upvoted you as one of the good witnesses . I hope you can also support us also.

I agree your post.
I think e-cigarette can be a healthy substitute instead of cigarettes.

Interesting post

voted you as my witness man.. i see your post really realistic and mativating!!

I am a healthy person. A month ago a guy close to me smoked an e-cigarette for 10 minutes. 2 hrs later i was in bed with a headache. The morning after I couldn’t get out of bed by myself. My head was exploding (i never have headaches) all my bones felt like froze. My stomach couldn’t take anything..... after 1 week in bed sick like a dog I finally felt better and after 2 weeks, 10 lb lighter felt normal......... e-cigarettes are way worse than cigarettes. I do react to cigarettes as well but i only lose my voice or cough for several weeks if people smoke arlund me (even if far from me) ...... so e-cigarettes are defiantly worse....... poison is poison. Some people are able to react to it so they can stay away and some don’t notice anything because the body is too weak to react. So the poisons get stored in their bodies and in a few years they get cancer!!!!! ...... i still don’t understand what is the value behind smoking other than showing how stupid domeone is to burn money and health for no reason

Pretty much anything in moderation is fine. Good article!