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Using E-Cigarettes Could Leave Lungs Vulnerable to Infection, Australian Research Finds

Dr Miranda Ween, a researcher in the Lung Research Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, in Australia, has been studying the effects e-cigarette vapor may have on the lungs, and though her findings won’t be published until next year, she has revealed that using e-cigs makes users prone to lung infections.

Miranda-WeenWeen’s research focused primarily on the lungs’ capacity to clear unwanted cells and bacteria, and it apparently found that e-cigarette use impairs this ability. “We are finding that when you vape you are actually reducing your lungs’ abilities to get rid of those cells, similar to cigarette smoke, with exactly the same effect,” Dr Ween told 891 ABC Adelaide.

“We are finding the vapor itself is increasing the inflammation, rather than the immune response, which is not such a great thing for your body, but we are also finding that it is damaging the immune cells that do the fighting,” the Australian scientist added. “If you have bacteria in your lungs, you are less likely to get rid of it if you are vaping or smoking than if you were not.”

Miranda Ween was able to conduct her research after being selected or the Hospital Research Foundation‘s 50th Anniversary Award finalists. The study will be presented to the Thoracic Society of Australia/New Zealand and the European Respiratory Society next year for review. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until then to find out the complete results and the methodology used in the lab.

Judging from some of Dr. Ween’s statements from before her research was even approved, she doesn’t have a very positive opinion about electronic cigarettes. “Data is starting to emerge that suggests that even non-nicotine e-liquids could be damaging the lungs and airways,” she told the Hospital Research Foundation. “Metals are not usually added intentionally to e-liquids. However, the heating element which vaporises the liquid is made of a mix of metals often including chromium, tin, and cadmium. These are released into the vapor during the heating process and this is then inhaled.” She is referring to a study conducted by Constantinos Sioutas, professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in Milan, last year, which indeed found increased levels of nickel and chromium in e-cigarette vapor, but overall found e-cigarettes to be significantly less harmful than tobacco. Since then, a more recent study found metal particles in e-cig vapor to be within safety limits.

“The results we find could be used to draw the public’s attention to the fact that e-cigarettes are not as harmless as their marketing campaigns would have you believe,” Ween said. “We need to better understand the dangers of e-cigarettes as the more knowledge we have and the sooner we get it, the earlier regulations can be implemented to protect the public.”

Is it just me or does she already seem convinced electronic cigarettes are evil? Apparently, she doesn’t even recommend them as an alternative to smoking: “At the moment our research is focusing more on ‘is this safe for people who have just started vaping’, and from that point of view we say it is not the best idea,” Dr Ween said. “For smokers, we are just not sure yet whether it is a step down or not.”

Even if the results of her research prove unquestionable and vaping does indeed make the lungs prone to infection, is that enough to qualify them as equally harmful as smoking? Lung infections are a serious thing, but they are not what’s killing the vast majority of smokers. It’s the tar, CO2 and thousands of known carcinogens in the smoke. This whole “we just don’t know yet” argument is getting really old. With so much existing research attesting to the relative harmlessness of vaping when compared to smoking, it’s hard not to regard such statements as biased.

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