Vaping raises oxidative stress levels and increases disease risk

Aug. 19, 2021

The risk that both tobacco and electronic cigarettes can pose to regular smokers’ health has been well documented, but a new UCLA study illustrates just how quickly vaping can affect the cells of even healthy younger nonsmokers.

The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics, show that a single 30-minute vaping session can significantly increase cellular oxidative stress, which occurs when the body has an imbalance between free radicals — molecules that can cause damage to cells — and antioxidants, which fight free radicals.

For the current study, 32 male and female study participants, who ranged in age from 21 to 33, were divided into three groups: 11 nonsmokers, nine regular tobacco cigarette smokers and 12 regular e-cigarette smokers. The researchers collected immune cells from each individual before and after a half-hour vaping session to measure and compare changes in oxidative stress among the groups.

The researchers performed the same process during a control session in which participants spent 30 minutes “sham-vaping,” or puffing on an empty straw.

They found that in nonsmokers, oxidative stress levels were two to four times higher after the vaping session than before. The same 30-minute exposure did not lead to an increase in oxidative stress among the regular cigarette and e-cigarette smokers, the researchers noted, most likely because their baseline levels of oxidative stress were already elevated.

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