As we all know, tobacco use remains a leading cause of oral cancer and, as such, the dental profession is eager to find ways to stop people from putting their health at risk by smoking. Many would like to think that the use of e-cigarettes may be the answer, but while it has been demonstrated that vaping is considerably safer than smoking, we must all be mindful that e-cigarettes are a relatively new concept and we do not yet have a complete body of research that proves vaping as 100 percent safe. After all, cigarettes were not initially considered dangerous to our health – nor was thalidomide.
And indeed, there have been several studies undertaken in recent months that have highlighted the potential risks posed by e-cigarettes. In one, it was shown that e-cigarettes are linked to oral cancer causing tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) and N’-nitrosonornicotine, a known oral and esophageal carcinogen. Importantly, the presence of TSNA in e-cigarette users remained higher than in non-users, and those that smoked and vaped presented comparable levels to those that simply smoked. Another study has shown that vaping may also be linked to weaker immune systems and lung inflammation.
As such, it is important to stay up to date with all of the available information and to impress on patients the fact that, while e-cigarettes may be a better alternative to smoking, there is still a lot we do not know about the effects they can have on our bodies long-term.