E-cigarette vapor tied to changes in lung cells

Henrietta Brewer
August 16, 2018

Researchers found e-cigarette vapour disabled important immune cells in the lung and boosted inflammation.

Vaping blocks alveolar macrophages from working - part of the lungs that get rid of dust, bacteria and other allergens, they claimed.

The findings, published online in the journal Thorax, suggest that while further research is needed to better understand the long term health impact of vaping, e-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think, as some of the effects were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease. "But if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD, then that's something we need to know about".

"Importantly, exposure of macrophages to [e-cigarette vapour condensate] induced numerous same cellular and functional changes in [alveolar macrophage] function seen in cigarette smokers and patients with COPD", they said.

Vaping is increasing in popularity, but most of the current body of research has focused on the chemical composition of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped. Britain's public health authorities are pushing smokers to switch to it as a safer choice; experts in the USA have warned that electronic cigarettes increase the risk of nicotine addiction among young people, while the World Health Organization has said uneasily that warming up electronic cigarettes can lead to the formation of toxic substances.

Public Health England has previously advised that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than cigarettes and advised that they should be used to help aid quitting smoking habits.

Amidst this controversy, the Birmingham researchers extracted immune cells or alveolar macrophages, from lung tissue samples that were taken from eight non-smokers who were never diagnosed with asthma or COPD.

In an accompanying podcast, Professor Thickett said the tobacco giants, who have bought up numerous e-cigarette companies, have an agenda to portray e-cigarettes as safe.

Prof Thickett then shared that he believes e-cigarettes are less harmful than ordinary cigarettes but he warned people to be wary about its safety. The effects were worse when it contained nicotine. Well, now they say switching from warm smoky air to cold apple-flavoured air isn't all that incredible a change to make, as huffing vapourised chemical compounds gives your lungs an entirely new collection of shit to deal with.

Public Health England, however, considers vaping safer than traditional cigarettes. British scientists have expressed "great reservations about the widespread view that electronic cigarettes are safe".

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