Vaping causes the same DNA changes as smoking, scientists find

The research comes as MPs prepare to vote on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which, if it passes, will ban future generations from being able to buy cigarettes.

Vaping causes similar changes to a person’s DNA as smokers who develop cancer, according to new research.

An analysis of cheek cell samples taken from vape users, when compared with those from cigarette smokers, revealed both groups shared similar changes to the DNA of cells in their mouth.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) linked the changes to the future development of lung cancer in smokers, but stipulated their results do not prove e-cigarettes cause cancer.

Instead the findings, published in the Cancer Research journal, show that “the devices might not be as harmless as originally thought”.

It comes as a Bill banning future generations from being able to buy cigarettes is brought before MPs.

The UCL paper, which is the first major piece of academic work to link e-cigarettes and an increased risk of cancer, studied cell sample data from 4,000 people.

Those who participated were a mixture of cigarette smokers and vapers who do not regularly smoke tobacco.

Specifically, the researchers examined the effects on cells by studying a type of epigenetic change in cells called DNA methylation.

Epigenetics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the study of how our “behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work”.

Under analysis, the results showed “substantially” altered mouth cells which had been exposed to tobacco and vape smoke.

These changes were mirrored in the lung cancer tissue of smokers who developed the disease.

Dr Chiara Herzog, who co-authored the report, said it was “important” to explore the “potential long-term risks and links to cancer” of e-cigarettes.

She added: “We hope this study may help form part of a wider discussion into e-cigarette usage, ­especially in people who have never previously smoked tobacco.”

On Wednesday, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will be introduced to Parliament, and, if it passes, will restrict the sale of tobacco so that anyone turning 15 this year, or younger, will never legally be sold cigarettes.

In effect, it will raise the age of tobacco sale by one year every year, with the aim of stopping today’s youngsters from ever taking up smoking in the first place.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the legislation is needed to “build a better future for our children”, adding: “This important change will save thousands of lives and billions of pounds for our NHS, freeing up new resource than can be spent to improve outcomes patients right across the UK.”

But some Conservative MPs, including former prime minister Liz Truss, have criticsed the Bill as “profoundly unconservative”.

You must be aged 18 or above to buy a e-cigarette in the UK. / Credit: PA

Earlier, this year, she said: “A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. It only gives succour to those who wish to curtail freedom.”

Youth vaping will also be tackled in the Bill by introducing new powers to restrict vape flavours and packaging intentionally marketed at children.

Enforcement officers will be able to give £100 on-the-spot fines to clamp down on underage sales of tobacco and vaping products, under new legislation.

Figures show that one in five children has tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years.

Elsewhere, officials in New Zealand have said e-cigarettes will be banned, with higher penalties for anyone who sells vapes to children under the age of 18.

The announcement comes less than a month after the New Zealand government repealed a law, introduced by former prime minister Jacinda Arden, to phase out tobacco smoking altogether.

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