New study shows how quickly vaping can affect the cells of healthy young non-smokers


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 findings, published Monday 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. “

Dr Holly Middlekauff, study lead author, professor of cardiology and physiology, 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 “fictitiously vaping” or blowing on an empty straw.

They found that in non-smokers, oxidative stress levels were two to four times higher after vaping 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.

“We were surprised at the severity of the effect a vaping session can have on healthy young people,” 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 they are nicotine or non-nicotine components of electronic cigarettes -; say the researchers. Middlekauff and his team will continue to explore this question in future research.

“While 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,” Middlekauff said. “The results are clear, unambiguous and worrying.”


University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences

Journal reference:

Kelesidis, T., et al. (2021) One session of vaping increases cellular oxidative stress in otherwise healthy young non-smokers: a randomized controlled crossover trial. JAMA Pediatrics.

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