Biology

New study suggests e-cigarettes could be damaging lungs in a unique way

New findings suggest that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung disease
New findings suggest that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung disease
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New findings suggest that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung disease
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New findings suggest that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung disease

E-cigarette use around the world is booming, especially amongst young people. In 2016 the US Surgeon General identified a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use in high school students from 2011 to 2015. While e-cigarette vapor certainly doesn't contain the same kinds of carcinogenic compounds as regular cigarette smoke there is a growing body of research to suggest "vaping" may have its own set of unique harmful effects.

A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has published findings suggesting that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung diseases.

The study examined 44 sputum samples from e-cigarette users, current cigarette smokers, and non-smokers. Amongst the e-cigarette using cohort a significant increase in neutrophil granulocyte- and neutrophil-extracellular-trap (NET)-related proteins was identified. The study notes that while neutrophils are useful in combating pathogens they also are known to contribute to lung diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis.

The study also identified similar increases in specific biomarkers associated with lung disease between e-cigarette and cigarette users. An increase in mucin 5AC, a mucus secretion associated with chronic bronchitis and asthma, was also found in both e-cigarette and cigarette users.

It is important to note that this study was small and limited, with the authors including the fact that most of the e-cigarette cohort were formerly cigarette smokers, making it difficult to clearly identify whether these results were solely related to e-cigarette use. The key factor to consider here though is that many previous studies have primarily examined the harm of e-cigarettes in relation to the harmful characteristics of cigarettes, potentially neglecting the unique or novel ways e-cigarettes could be causing harm.

"Comparing the harm of e-cigarettes with cigarettes is a little like comparing apples to oranges," says Dr. Mehmet Kesimer, senior author of the new study. "Our data shows that e-cigarettes have a signature of harm in the lung that is both similar and unique, which challenges the concept that switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative."

The long-term adverse effects of e-cigarettes are only now starting to become clear and while they most likely don't cause the same kind of harm as cigarettes, the idea they are a "healthy" alternative may be a misnomer. The only truly healthy alternative to cigarette smoking is to simply not smoke at all.

The research was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Source: American Thoracic Society via Eurekalert

16 comments
Catweazle
Yeah, yeah, yeah... Everything you do including plain straightforward breathing carries a finite risk. Life is a sexually transmitted condition that is invariably fatal. Live with it.
MoveRotate
It seems to be a little know fact, but one does not need to inhale the vapor of vaporizers to have the nicotine work. It's not the lungs that absorb the nicotine, it's the palate and olfactory area. The vapor particles are to big for the lungs to absorb it. So the inhalation is purely a preferred habit of most ex-smokers. The vapor would actually work better if one sloshed it around like vine, or vaped like a cigar. Anyway, that fact would mute this whole article...
JimFox
Study funded by... Big Tobacco? Shock, horror!
Lance
Life is the leading cause of death.
Nik
Any toxic substance injected into the body, by any means, is potentially harmful. Nicotine is a deadly poison, so it can do no good, however little you ingest, so why do it? If the suppliers were all charged with manslaughter, it would stop, but there is far too much profit, and tax to be gained for that!
Grunchy
Next, do salt inhalers. ...because I'm developing an addiction !
robo
It only makes sense that inhaling any particulate matter or any type of smoke into your lungs is going to cause some kind of illness. You can say there is a risk to everything in life. But some serious risks like smoking/vaping are totally avoidable, so it's smart to avoid them and dumb to carry on as if there's no risk.
Rustgecko
What you don’t mention are these important facts. The 44 septum samples were taken from 15 subjects, of which are smoking traditional cigarettes as well as vaping; and 12 were previous smokers. Therefore the sample base was tiny, and the damage could easily have been done by previous / present cigarette usage. The study almost certainly has some link back to big tobacco.
JimFox
Rustgecko-- very well said. Public gullibility is NoT improving...
JimFox
Decades of epidemiologic research bear out Rodu's findings. While no tobacco product is completely safe, smokeless products have been shown to be 98 percent safer than cigarettes. In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Physicians reported in 2002 that smokeless tobacco is up to 1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, and in 2007, further urged world governments to seriously consider instituting tobacco harm reduction strategies as a means to save lives. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120219135553.htm?utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ScienceDaily_TMD_1&utm_source=TMD
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