As the City Council debates whether to ban electronic cigarette use, there have been a lot of opinions shared about whether e-cigs are safe. Research into the effects of nicotine is picking up. Erin Billups filed the following report.
Walking his 8-year-old son to school one morning, Dr. Deepak Saxena came across an ad for electronic cigarettes.
"In his mind now all of a sudden he is seeing this when we are saying it's bad, it’s something new,” said Saxena.
E-cigarettes are new, so new, the effects are relatively unknown.
The moment with his son inspired Saxena and his colleague Xin Li at NYU College of Dentistry, to study what impact e-cig use may have on oral biology.
"The general area of our mouth is healthy when we have good bugs, they keep us healthy, but when certain changes happen, the good bugs goes down and the bad bugs, they come up,” Saxena said.
Too much bad bacteria in the mouth can lead to dental diseases like oral cancer or periodontal disease.
There's not enough data to say whether the liquid nicotine used in e-cigs causes any of those dental issues.
"But we are seeing changes,” Saxena said.
In a preliminary study done over the past eight months, Saxena and Li found an increase of bad bugs in the mouths of a small sample of habitual e-cigarette users, similar to the balance found in the mouths of regular cigarette smokers.
They're hoping to expand their studies.
Meanwhile Uptown at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Ronald Crystal has come up with a possible nicotine vaccine.
"So the idea is that they would no longer have the positive effects of nicotine, so therefore would stop smoking,” said Crystal.
The vaccine, found very effective on mice, blocks the nicotine from reaching the brain.
It would mainly help smokers, who are inhaling thousands of dangerous chemicals and carcinogens from cigarettes, quit.
E-cigarettes users argue, it's healthier because the vapors they're inhaling are made mainly of nicotine.
"If you had the choice to smoke an electronic cigarette versus cigarettes, I would say probably electronic cigarettes, but that’s a guess, that’s not proven and until studies are done I would stay away from both,” said Crystal.
Studies around the impact of e-cigarettes and the impacts of nicotine itself are ramping up, but it make take years before we get definitive answers.