A UB epidemiologist-led study has been given the grant it needs to determine the health differences between the lungs of an e-cig user and the lungs of a smoker and a non-smoker.

The pilot study has been awarded to University of Buffalo epidemiologist Jo Freudenheim in order to gain crucial research into the effects of the e-cig on lungs.

In the last few months alone, a USA county has imposed an e-cig ban, and a Manhattan court upheld a move to ban e-cigs from city public spaces. These two bans serve as a microcosm of the country’s vaping unease.

“E-cigarette use is increasing rapidly, including among young people who never smoked cigarettes,” said Jo Freudenheim, PhD.

“There’s a lot of interest in understanding how e-cigarettes affect the body. The FDA, in particular, is very interested in data about the biological impact of e-cigarettes. This study will contribute to that. It’s only one piece of a puzzle, but it’s a potentially important piece.”

In the e-cigarette pilot study, Freudenheim, accompanied by her colleagues, will examine lung samples of healthy smokers, non-smokers and e-cig users that are aged from 21 to 30. To attain the samples, participants underwent a bronchoscopy procedure.

“Every cell in your body has the same DNA, but some parts of that DNA are turned on in different tissues — for example, for one cell to become a hair cell instead of a stomach or lung cell. Changes in DNA methylation contribute to allowing for those different kinds of cells,” explained Freudenheim.

“In tumors, one of the things that can happen is that DNA methylation can go awry — something that’s not supposed to be turned on is turned on or turned off when it should be turned on. We know that there are these kinds of changes in lung cancers and also that some of these differences in DNA methylation are seen in apparently healthy smokers. The point of this study is to find out how the DNA methylation in e-cigarette users compares to the other two groups.”

A previous study has found no e-cig DNA damage, and another found that e-cig vapour doesn’t induce DNA mutations like tobacco smoke.