The youth of today has exchanged traditional cigarettes for vaping devices as there is a general assumption that the latter is the healthier option. However, a new study has busted this myth.

The study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found DNA damage in the mouths of both vapers and smokers, which was more than double of what was found in non-users.

In the study, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of South California (USC) analyzed epithelial cells taken from the mouths of vapers, smokers, and people who had never vaped or smoked.

"These products are not harmless, and they're not risk-free," study author Ahmad Besaratinia and his colleagues at Keck School of Medicine of USC, said, ABC7 reported.

Worryingly, e-cigarettes are used regularly by more than 10% of U.S. teens and more than 3% of adults.

“For the first time, we showed that the more vapers used e-cigarettes, and the longer they used them, the more DNA damage occurred in their oral cells,” Besaratinia said in a statement. “The same pattern held up in smokers.”

DNA damage was found to be higher among those who vaped or smoked more frequently in the study. Moreover, the DNA damage was more extreme in vapers who used vape pods and mods, as well as sweet-, fruit- or mint-flavored vapes.

"Chronic use of a vape product even for several months would lead to biological consequences that are contributing to disease development," Besaratinia commented. "Those who use sweet, flavored products had the highest levels of any damage as compared to non-users."

In the study, 72 healthy adults were recruited and divided into three groups: vapers (who had never smoked), smokers (who had never vaped), and people who did neither.

Next, data was collected on how frequently and the duration for which the participants smoked or vaped. In people who vaped, additional information on the type of devices and flavors they used was collected. Then, a sample of epithelial cells was extracted from each participant’s mouth and tested for DNA damage.

Following analysis, the results found similar DNA damage between vapers and smokers. The amount of damage was 2.6 times for vapers and 2.2 times for smokers compared to non-users.

In the case of vapers, pod users had the highest levels of DNA damage, followed by mod users. Coming to flavors, sweet-flavored vapes were linked to the highest levels of DNA damage, followed by mint/menthol- and fruit-flavored vapes.

The study gains all the more importance since vaping has become quite popular among the U.S. youth. According to a survey, an estimated 2.55 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the early part of last year.

"This study shows that our nation's youth continue to be enticed and hooked by an expanding variety of e-cigarette brands delivering flavored nicotine," said Deirdre Kittner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's office.