The rapid rise in e-cigarette (e-cig) use warrants major investigation into their health effects. Among the presenters of the "Electronic Cigarette Research" platform session were academic and industry researchers who presented the latest findings on various aspects of e-cigarette use, ranging from delivery systems, nicotine levels, solvents, and flavors. The belief that e-cigs are a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes has yet to be validated, and the marketing aimed at young individuals is especially concerning. Various delivery systems available on the market allow the user to manually adjust the voltage and nicotine levels, which introduces even more variables into already mucky waters.
Among the intriguing data presented, notable were the in vitro findings on the effects of e-cig smoke on genes associated with cell cycle regulation, oxidative stress, mitochondria stress, and the associated DNA damage in human airway cells. However, in vivo studies presented in the session indicated potentially decreased toxicity to rodents in three subchronic studies when compared with traditional combustible cigarettes.
To me, the biggest gap is epidemiological data on the health effects of e-cig use since they became popular within the last five years or so. And what about the overall exposure? Are people using e-cig at a much higher frequency because they are believed to be safer than regular cigarettes? So far, long-term studies have yet to be seen and more research is needed to address these issues.
Overall, the research continues at a steady pace, and I, for one, will be staying up-to-date with current findings in this field, as staying ahead of the curve will allow us to properly protect human health and address emerging issues.