The new study results “are clear, unambiguous and concerning,” says a UCLA researcher.
The risk that tobacco and e-cigarettes can pose to the health of regular smokers has been well documented, but a new study from UCLA illustrates just how quickly vaping can affect the cells of young, healthy non-smokers.
The conclusions, published on Monday, August 9, 2021, in JAMA Pediatrics, show that a single 30-minute vaping session can dramatically increase cellular oxidative stress, which occurs when the body has an imbalance between free radicals – molecules that can damage cells – and antioxidants, which fight free radicals .
“Over time, this imbalance can play an important role in the development of certain diseases, including cardiovascular, pulmonary and neurological diseases, as well as cancer,” said lead author of the study, Dr Holly. Middlekauff, professor of cardiology and physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Electronic cigarettes, devices that deliver nicotine with flavors and other chemicals in a vapor rather than smoke, are seen by many as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, but research by Middlekauff and others have shown that vaping is associated with a number of unwanted changes. in the body which can portend future health problems.
For the present study, 32 male and female participants, aged 21 to 33, were divided into three groups: 11 non-smokers, nine regular cigarette smokers and 12 regular e-cigarette smokers. Middlekauff and his colleagues collected immune cells from each individual before and after a half-hour vaping session to measure and compare changes in oxidative stress between groups.
The researchers performed the same process in a monitoring session in which participants spent 30 minutes ‘fictitious vaping’ or blowing on an empty straw.
They found that in non-smokers, oxidative stress levels were two to four times higher after the vaping session than before. The same 30-minute exposure did not lead to an increase in oxidative stress in regular cigarette and e-cigarette smokers, the researchers noted, most likely because their baseline oxidative stress levels were already elevated.
âWe were surprised at the severity of the effect a vaping session can have on healthy young people,â Middlekauff said. “This brief vaping session was no different than what they might experience at a party, but the effects were dramatic.”
The results are particularly disturbing, say the researchers, as the popularity of vaping continues to increase, especially among teens and young adults. Almost one in three high school students said they had used an electronic cigarette in the past month, according to a 2020 study.
Much remains to be understood about the exact causes of changes in oxidative stress levels – whether it’s nicotine or the non-nicotine elements in e-cigarettes – according to the researchers. Middlekauff and his team will continue to explore this question in future research.
âWhile there is a perception that electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes, these results clearly and definitively show that there is no safe level of vaping,â Middlekauff said. âThe results are clear, unambiguous and worrying. “
Reference: âAssociation of a vaping session with cellular oxidative stress in otherwise healthy youth without a history of smoking or vaping: a randomized crossover clinical trialâ by Theodoros Kelesidis, MD, PhD; Elizabeth Tran, BS; Randy Nguyen, BS; Yuyan Zhang, BS; Grace Sosa, BS and Holly R. Middlekauff, MD, August 9, 2021, JAMA Pediatrics.
DOI: 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2021.2351
Other study authors included Dr Theodoros Kelesidis, Elizabeth Tran, Randy Nguyen, Yuyan Zhang, and Grace Sosa, all from UCLA.
The research was funded in part by the California Tobacco-Related Diseases Research Program and the National Institutes of Health.