Dental researchers examine hidden health impact of electronic cigarettes

December 12, 2013 by Elyse Bloom

The electronic cigarette (e-cig) was introduced in the U.S. in 2007 and offers nicotine-addicted individuals an alternative to smoking tobacco. E-cigs have been marketed as a safe alternative to tobacco smoking and most are similar enough in appearance to be mistaken for conventional cigarettes, so it is not surprising that their popularity is increasing worldwide, especially among young people. To date, however, there has been little research on the impact of e-cigs on public health.

Deepak Saxena, associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, and Xin Li, assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, both at the College of Dentistry, are working to close the gap between marketing and science by using oral cavity and various systems biology approaches to reveal the health impact of e-cigs. The FDA and the American Lung Association have cautioned that e-cig users are unknowingly inhaling vaporized chemicals including diethylene glycol. "The issue is urgent," notes Saxena, "as a recent survey conducted among students at eight U.S. colleges found that 12 percent of e-cig users had never smoked a conventional cigarette."

E-cigs use a heating device to vaporize nicotine and other ingredients which simulate the visual, sensory, and behavioral aspects of smoking without the combustion of . The main difference between e-cigs and conventional cigarettes is that e-cigs do not contain tobacco, although they do contain nicotine, which is harmful to the body and is associated with toxicity and addiction. E-cigs employ a mechanism to heat up liquid nicotine, which turns into a vapor that smokers inhale and exhale, a process known as "vaping."

Each nicotine cartridge in an e-cig can provide 200 to 400 puffs, equivalent to two to three packs of cigarettes. "Due to the frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation, and length of vaping," says Li, "e-cig users may actually absorb higher concentrations of nicotine and other toxins than conventional tobacco smokers.

Since the initial interaction of from e-cigs with the human body occurs first in the , Saxena and Li will collect saliva and oral mucosa from College of Dentistry patients who are e-cig users to determine the relative abundance of oral bacteria and changes in DNA in these patients in order to compare them with the effects found among conventional cigarette smokers.

Explore further: Some smokers successfully switch to electronic cigarettes

Related Stories

Some smokers successfully switch to electronic cigarettes

September 14, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- While electronic cigarettes may be a long-term alternative to the real thing for some smokers, Penn State College of Medicine researchers suggest medical providers should continue to encourage more traditional ...

Electronic cigarettes gaining awareness, use

February 28, 2013

Increased awareness and use of electronic cigarettes in the U.S. outlined in a study released Thursday highlights the need for government regulation and evaluation, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ...

E-cigarette makers go to war over EU proposals

September 3, 2013

Makers and users of electronic cigarettes Tuesday went to war against EU plans to class the devices as medicinal products, saying any such move would end up harming public health.

Regulatory cloud hangs over e-cig revolution

October 2, 2013

The electronic cigarette is seducing Europe and America, luring millions away from traditional tar-depositing tobacco with a battery-powered alternative that claims to be satisfying and harmless.

What are electronic cigarettes?

December 12, 2013

As rates of smoking fall in Australia, electronic cigarette manufacturers are moving in. Liberty Flights last week released an (awful) online ad to "create awareness" of electronic or e-cigarettes in the Australian marketplace.

Recommended for you

Children born in the summer more likely to be healthy adults

October 12, 2015

Women who were born in the summer are more likely to be healthy adults, suggests new research published in the journal Heliyon. The authors of the study, which involved almost half a million people in the UK, say more sunlight ...

Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

September 24, 2015

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: office meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink, and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Elaine Keller
not rated yet Dec 14, 2013
The FDA found a non harmful amount of DEG in the liquid. However no DEG has ever been reported in the vapor. It isn't in the vapor, therefore users are not inhaling it. Saxena misrepresented the results of the Sutfin, et al. survey of college students, trying to imply that never smokers are becoming regular users of e-cigarettes. The 12% figure applies to all those who ever tried, even if only one time, an e-cigarette, not to regular users. Smart college students who understand that smoking is much more hazardous may be willing to give e-cigarettes a try, just as an experiment, but are not likely to become regular users. Even recent use, during the past 30 days, contains few never smokers. The average across 11 surveys was 0.3%.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.