Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine have found strong evidence that vaping nicotine products promotes lung cancer and potentially bladder cancer as well.
In a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published Oct. 7 in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, researchers exposed lab mice to both nicotine and non-nicotine vapor for 54 weeks. The amount of exposure was similar to a person who’s vaped for about three to six years.
Researchers found that nicotine vaper damages DNA in the lungs and bladder and “inhibits DNA repair in lung tissues.” Out of 40 mice exposed to vaping products with nicotine, 22.5% developed lung cancer and 57.5% developed precancerous lesions on the bladder.
Another group of 20 mice was exposed to vapor from products containing no nicotine. None of those mice developed cancer over the four years they were studied.
Lead researcher Dr. Moon-Shong Tang told CNBC that the results of the study are “statistically very significant” and warrant further research on the link between vaping and cancer in humans. He said that based on the evidence shown by his study, he doesn’t think that such research will find that vaping is safe for humans.
“It’s foreseeable that if you smoke e-cigarettes, all kinds of disease comes out” over time, Dr. Tang told CNBC. “Long term, some cancer will come out, probably,” he added, saying that vaping is “bad news.” He also said the study’s findings indicate that secondhand vape fumes pose health risks for people in close proximity.
The study is the first to definitively link vape products to cancer, although some previous studies have suggested a correlation. For instance, in a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in February, University of Southern California researchers found that vaping leads to some of the same molecular changes in oral tissue that cause cancer in cigarette smokers.
The vape industry and even some medical professionals often tout vapes as safer, healthier alternatives to smoking tobacco, but such claims may be misleading. The impact of vape usage on human health is a relatively new issue for doctors and health researchers. Even if vaping is safer than smoking, that doesn’t mean it is safe. In fact, vaping may be the most dangerous form of nicotine replacement therapy on the market for anyone trying to quit smoking.
The NYU study could hardly come at a worse time for the vape industry, which has fallen under intense scrutiny as the rate of vape usage among minors continues to soar. The vaping epidemic, fueled mostly by the vape manufacturer JUUL Labs, has also triggered a backlash on the federal, state, and local levels as governments move to ban flavored vaping products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finalizing rules to remove all non-tobacco vape flavors from the market to combat youth vaping.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health officials in 48 states and the U.S. Virginia Islands are investigating an outbreak of potentially deadly lung diseases linked to vaping. As of Oct. 1, the CDC says it is looking into more than 1,000 vaping-related illnesses, including 18 deaths.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.