E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

New Study Suggests E-Cigarette vapor Is Just as Harmful to Lungs as Cigarette Smoke

A team of Australian researchers recently published the findings of a study where they compared the effects of e-cigarette vapor, heated-tobacco vapor and tobacco cigarette smoke on epithelial cells and smooth muscle cells found in human airways. They concluded that all three were dangerously toxic.

Forget all that mumbo-jumbo about vaping being 95% safer than smoking, or e-cigarettes being considerably less harmful than analogs, because according to a new study published in the ERj Open Research journal, vaping is just as bad for you as smoking and using heated-tobacco products. So I guess that if you can’t quit smoking, you needn’t even bother switching to a so-called “less dangerous alternative”.

“Our results suggest that all three are toxic to the cells of our lungs and that these new heated tobacco devices are as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes,” study leader Dr. Sukhwinder Sohal, from the University of Tasmania, concluded. “Damage to these two types of lung cells – epithelial cells and smooth muscle cells – can destroy lung tissue leading to fatal diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia, and can increase the risk of developing asthma, including in unborn children. So we should not assume that these devices are a safer option.”

In what Sohal called an “innovative experimental design”, scientists exposed the human cells to similar concentrations of cigarette smoke extract, e-cigarette vapour and HnB aerosol vapors, and concluded that they were all toxic. They found that cigarette smoke and heated tobacco aerosol were highly toxic to the cells both at lower and higher concentrations while e-cigarette vapor demonstrated toxicity mainly at higher concentrations. But, even at lower concentrations, e-cig vapor induced a ‘cry for help’ inflammatory response in the cells.

“We observed different levels of cellular toxicity with all forms of exposures in human lung cells. What came out clearly was that the newer products were in no way less toxic to cells than conventional cigarettes or e-cigarette vaping,” researchers wrote. “We demonstrate here for the first time that IQOS exposure is as detrimental as cigarette smoking and vaping to human lung cells.”

I get that they are trying to emphasize the fact that heated-tobacco products are not as safe as advertised by tobacco companies, which is something are researchers pointed out in the past, but why make it seem like e-cigarettes are just as dangerous, when their own research showed that, at low concentrations, e-cig vapor was less toxic? What ever happened to a tobacco harm reduction approach?

All throughout the study, the Australian researchers refer to all three different devices as equally harmful, making little to no distinction between them. Phrases like “Our data suggests that like eCigs and traditional cigarettes, IQOS exposure contributes to altered mitochondrial function which can further exaggerate airway inflammation, airway remodeling and lung cancer,” or “Cigarette smoking and eCigs can exaggerate respiratory infections by increasing microbial adherence to the airways,” make it seem like there is literally no difference between cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor, when it comes to lung damage.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and with the introduction of e-cigarettes in the last decade, the trend of nicotine uptake is not going to slow down in the near future. If the current trend continues, tobacco use will cause more than eight million deaths annually by 2030 around the world,” Dr. Pawan Sharma, co-author of the study, said.

The above statement is as misleading as the study findings. Nicotine uptake is not the same as tobacco use. Despite lawmakers’ decision to categorize e-cigarettes as tobacco products, the truth is that they don’t contain any tobacco, and sometimes they don’t even contain nicotine. And even if they do, it doesn’t even come from tobacco leaves. So please, don’t insinuate that vaping contributes in any way in the number of smoking-related deaths.

Interestingly, the findings of this study aren’t consistent with the results of previous studies that looked at the effects of e-cigarette vapor on epithelial cells. For example, one study found that cells exposed to e-cigarette aerosol showed significantly higher viability (4.5–8 times higher) than those exposed to cigarette smoke. And let’s not forget that lab-grown cells are not completely comparable to a living person’s cells, and in vivo testing could yield very different results. So let’s not freak out just yet.

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