TOXINS in e-cigarettes could leave users with damaged eyesight, a new study suggests.
Around 2.7 million people in England use the devices, often as an alternative to smoking after quitting the habit.
UK health chiefs encourage smokers to switch to vaping, saying it is safe and far better than smoking.
Smoking is known to damage the eyes, as well as being a leading cause of cancer and a myriad of other deadly diseases.
Now, scientists say those who use e-cigarettes may also have an increased risk of eyesight problems.
Current vapers were 34 per cent more likely to suffer from visual impairments compared to those who had never tried it, and former vapers 14 per cent more likely to.
The new study by the University of California included 1,173,646 adults in the US aged between 18 and 50, The Telegraph reports.
Participants were asked if they ever have smoked or vaped and asked if they had suffered visual impairment.
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The findings, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, add to others which say e-cigarette use is not without some risk.
E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid, often fruity flavoured, that contains nicotine, the addictive substance of tobacco.
It also contains propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and other chemicals that research might be harmful, but on a significantly lower scale than tobacco.
Scientists theorise that ingredients like propylene glycol in vape liquid produce free radicals – cell-damaging atoms that may weaken the fluid layer covering the surface of the eye.
It may also promote oxidative stress, a key factor in the development of chronic diseases as well as cataracts and glaucoma.
Research shows cigarette smoking heightens the risk of several eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration.
But it is important to note that at this point, it’s unclear whether those risks are connected to vaping or something else.
Professor Simon Capewell, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Liverpool, said the latest California study did not prove a link between vaping and eye damage.
But he said there are “many nasty toxins in e-cig vapour”.
There have been a raft of warnings over e-cigarettes use – such as a recent finding that it might increase the odds of erectile dysfunction and stroke at middle-age.
The World Health Organization claims they "increase the risk of heart disease and lung disorders" and are "particularly risky when used by adolescents".
But there is growing evidence the devices can effectively help people kick the killer smoking habit.
The NHS says: “They're not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
“The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.”
E-cigs can help you manage your nicotine cravings and a 2019 study found that people using them with face-to-face support were twice as likely to quit smoking.
Some six per cent of adults vape, according to a report from Public Health England in February 2021.
Some of those are people who have never smoked previously, despite this being strongly discouraged.
The report says almost 30 per cent of 11 to 18 year olds have tried a vaping product but never tried smoking.
There is concern the sweet flavours of vape products are enticing youngsters to use them, when they may have not otherwise tried a cigarette.
Non-smokers who take up vaping may face harms they would otherwise had avoided, the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, an independent body advising the UK Government, reported in 2020.
But the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA), which has replaced PHE, says there is “ no evidence to support concern that e-cigarettes are increasing youth smoking”.
Meanwhile, smoking rates among young people and adults in the UK continue to decline.
England may be the first country in the world to dish out e-cigs on prescription to people trying to stop smoking, it was revealed in October.
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