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Smoking is extremely harmful to your health, particularly for women. Did you know that women who smoke two or more packs per day have a 20 times higher risk of dying from lung cancer than women who do not smoke? And in case you think vaping or e-cigarettes are less hazardous, you may be living in la la land. A recent study found that smoking in any form is bad for your heart and lungs. Read on to find out the side effects of vape and how its dangers are similar to that of smoking.
HealthShots got in touch with Dr RK Chopra, Senior consultant of chest medicine, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, to find the side effects of smoking and vaping.
Cigarette smoking causes DNA damage to lung cells, leading to lung cancer
Dr Chopra says, “DNA is the genomic component of any living cell. Smoke from cigarettes contains more than 700 carcinogens, which damage single DNA strands physically and chemically through various chemical pathways (hydroxyl attack on DNA). As a result, changing DNA renders gene coding inactive or modifies its replication processes, leading to a range of genetic abnormalities that cause cancer. Researchers found that smokers have more mutations overall than non-smokers.” By using single-cell gel electrophoresis, often known as the ‘COMET ASSAY,’ genetic laboratories can now detect early DNA damage.
Side effects of vaping and smoking are similar according to this study
More than 10 per cent of US teenagers and more than 3 per cent of adults regularly use e-cigarettes, which were once promoted as a healthier alternative to the consumption of tobacco cigarettes. The study, which was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, said that evidence is mounting that vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes, is associated with serious or life-threatening diseases that are common among smokers.
In fact, a group of researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) recently examined epithelial cells obtained from the mouths of smokers, vapers, and those who had never smoked or vaped.
Also read: Is secondhand smoke as dangerous as active smoking? Let’s find out
They discovered that DNA damage in smokers and vapers was quite similar and was more than twice as high as in non-users. The frequency of smoking or vaping was associated with greater DNA damage. Moreover, it was higher among vapers who used flavoured sweet, fruity, or mint flavours as well as mods and vape pods.
Not only this, according to Ahmad Besaratinia, Ph.D., MPH, professor of research population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, and senior author of the study, oral cells’ DNA was damaged more severely in cases where more vapers smoked e-cigarettes and for longer periods of time.
Nicotine is harmful for health
Nicotine and its byproduct Nitrosamines cause DNA damage and mutations. They are principal component of tobacco cigarette and e-cigarette smoke (ECS). As a result, e-cigarettes are no longer considered to be safe. Dr Chopra says, “Mutagenic substances are found in lung cells, which have a role in lung cancer. Aerosolized ECS contains nitrosamines, which cause methylation-induced DNA damage and are hence cancerous (DNA-DNA cross-links). One cigarette would be equivalent to 14 puffs of ECS, and 15 cigarettes would be equivalent to 60 ml bottle of 3 mg e-liquid.” E-cigarettes might be less toxic than traditional cigarettes but the effects of it on your health are pretty similar.
If cigarette smoking persists, genetic damage may become irreversible. Yet, some research indicates that after quitting smoking, a majority of DNA damage returns to a pre-smoking level within five years.
The key to avoiding the side effects of smoking and vaping
Dr Chopra says to prevent DNA damage from smoking and vaping while still continuing your habit, can possibly be achieved with these tips:
- Exercise regularly for at least half an hour
- Make sure you go for a walk in the morning
- Make a healthy routine
- Use nicotine replacement therapy
- Practice deep breathing
- Use of wellness vapes (which contain vitamins and other substances instead of nicotine)
- Use of anti-smoking drugs such as varenicline
- Indulge in healthy snacking to overcome a tobacco craving
- Use N-acetylcysteine, a prodrug, that found to significantly reduce DNA damage caused by nicotine
For the best case scenario, try to make efforts to control your daily consumption of both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.