The attractions and availability of electronic cigarettes have long been known to influence adolescents and teenagers to take up vaping and smoking. Along with an increase in use comes an in increased rate of harm to health.

A recent study has identified an additional, previously unidentified, threat to health with the use of electronic cigarettes. The study found that the use of electronic cigarettes and inhaling the vapors alters saliva DNA.

This finding, while alarming, is not all that surprising, as there was residual formaldehyde, acrolein and methylglyoxal in the saliva of those studied. These chemicals have previously been identified as being in vapors from electronic cigarettes, and these chemicals are known to damage DNA.

A team of researchers presented these study results related to vaping at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society held in Boston this summer. The research spokesperson, Dr. Romel Datar from the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, commented, "We want to characterize the chemicals that vapers are exposed to, as well as any DNA damage they may cause."

Another member of the research team, Dr. Silvia Balbo, explained the concerns the research has revealed. "It’s clear that more carcinogens arise from the combustion of tobacco in regular cigarettes than from the vapor of e-cigarettes," said Dr. Balbo, the project’s lead investigator, who is also at the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota.

"However, we don’t really know the impact of inhaling the combination of compounds produced by this device. Just because the threats are different doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes are completely safe."

To better understand the dangers of chemical exposures to the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping they collected saliva samples before and after the use of e-cigarettes in five users. The research team mass-spectrometry-based methods to measure the chemicals.

They found that four of the five research participants had damage related to the exposure to acrolein. The damage occurs when the acrolein reacts with DNA. This damages the cell. If the cell is unable to respond and repair itself to enable normal DNA replications, the result will be cancers.

The risk for lesions in the mouth is high related to smoking, and the risk so far is not reduced with the use of electronic cigarettes, as early research has found similar rates. The long-term consequences are not known.

It is expected those clinicians caring for the mouth will be treating an increasing number of problems. Waterpipe-type products are associated with periodontitis, dry sockets, premalignant lesions, and oral and esophageal cancer. It remains to be seen if the same problems will be associated with electronic cigarettes.

But if recent research is any indication, we can expect an increase in health problems. Given the high rate at which adolescents and teens are adopting the use of electronic cigarettes we may be seeing a generation of adults experiencing unusual oral health problems, including cancers.