Professor Moon-Shong Tang from NYU School of Medicine said he wished he was wrong when he saw the data, but the strict research process told him that this is the reality.
“22.5 percent of mice develop lung cancer, It’s not a tumor. It’s cancer,” Tang said.
That’s what happened after 40 mice breathed the vapor for 54 weeks. It’s the same product millions of Americans use every day. Tang said the amount equals to 3 to 6 years of vaping for a human being.
Aside from lung cancer, 57.5 percent of those mice developed pre-cancerous changes in their bladder tissue.
In contrast, the mice inhaled vapor without nicotine or those that breathed filtered air had much lesser rates of either condition.
The result is the first that links vaping nicotine to cancer, at least in mice. But Tang said the basic mechanism that caused cancerous changes in cells are basically the same for mice and humans. And since e-cigarettes have only been popular for around 8 years, it’s probably only a matter of time for the consequences to show in humans.
“Human society [is] actually conducting this bid experiment right now,” he said.
Before the outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries this summer in America, e-cigarettes were considered safer than smoking. It doesn’t involve the burning process that transforms nicotine—which people believe won’t cause cancer by itself—to some cancer-causing chemicals.
“The thing that bothers me is that nicotine is seen as non-cancerogenic, and it’s based on one study,” Tang said, “So I challenged the concept.”
In a previous study, Tang treated human cells with nicotine and detected DNA damage that corresponded with those caused by cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes.
That study, combined with the recent one, showed that the burning process in smoking is not a necessary precursor for cancerous changes. As long as there is nicotine, be it cigarettes or e-cigarettes, cancerous changes can occur.
“So it’s nicotine. To answer your question, we see the effect, nicotine,” he said, “If we don’t put nicotine in there, probably less harmful.”
As for what society should do about this, “the more wise people in the political or law, social studies can make that decision,” he said, “From the basic research point of view, e-cigarette is harmful. So the young people, non-smokers shouldn’t take e-cigarette as safer.”
As the population of tobacco smoking slowly decreases, the number of people vaping increased from 7 million in 2011 to 41 million in 2018, according to a BBC report, citing the research group Euromonitor.
The reported showed that the United States is the largest vaping market in the world. The CDC’s latest report showed nearly 1,500 lung injuries and 33 confirmed deaths are associated with e-cigarette use.