Study: E-cigarettes as harmful to our lungs as normal tobacco products?

Flavors in e-cigarettes damage the lungs

For a long time it was said that e-cigarettes are not as harmful to health as normal cigarettes. But researchers have now found that flavors in e-cigarettes can be just as stressful to the lungs as conventional smoking.

The researchers at the University of Athens found out that flavors in e-cigarettes can be particularly dangerous for the lungs because they trigger inflammation there. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular".

E-cigarettes safer alternative to flammable tobacco?

Battery-powered e-cigarettes are supposed to help smokers quit their unhealthy habit. But the use of this alternative also causes enormous damage, the experts say. In experiments on mice, the scientists found that the additives, including the flavorings they contain, cause inflammation in the lungs that is similar to that of conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been marketed as a safer alternative to flammable tobacco, but the new research suggests that their flavor and additives can also damage the lungs, the doctors explain.

More research is needed

The observed adverse effects in the lungs from exposure to e-cigarette vapors in animal models underline the need for further studies on the safety and toxicity of these rapidly expanding devices worldwide, the study authors say.

What does the vapor from e-cigarettes contain?

E-cigarettes simulate the smoking of a conventional cigarette by dispensing a vapor from liquid chemicals in a refillable cartridge, which typically contains propylene glycol, nicotine and often also flavorings. Propylene glycol is a colorless and odorless additive that is found in numerous processed foods and beverages. It is also used as a solvent in a number of medicines.

E-cigarettes trigger inflammatory reactions

The researchers compared several groups of mice that were exposed to whole bodies four times a day to different chemical combinations, with each session separated by 30-minute smoke-free intervals. The results suggest that exposure to vapors from e-cigarettes triggers inflammatory reactions and may affect the mechanics of the respiratory system.

How was the experiment set up?

A group of the mice received cigarette smoke. Three other groups of animals were exposed to vapors of e-cigarettes containing either propylene glycol, propylene glycol and nicotine, or both, and a tobacco flavor. The last group acted as a control group and received only normal, smoke-free air. Some animals from each group were exposed to the treatment for three days (short term) and other mice for four weeks (long term).

How did the vapors from e-cigarettes affect the animals?

The increased inflammation markers, increased mucus production and altered lung function were found after only three days in all three groups of mice that were exposed to the vapors of e-cigarettes, the doctors explain. But the animals that only received propylene glycol showed less negative effects with long-term treatment. This suggests that the additive only causes a temporary irritation, which relativizes when used again, the experts add.

Some flavors of e-cigarettes don't seem to be safe

In addition, two inflammatory proteins were enhanced in the flavoring group. This means that some of the many flavor components on the market may not be safe for short-term use. The condition of the e-cigarette groups alarmed the researchers. The extent of oxidative stress and damage at the cellular level was the same or higher in the animals exposed to flavors than in the cigarette group, the researchers report.

Respiratory mechanics only affected by cigarette smoke

However, e-cigarettes had one advantage over conventional cigarettes: the breathing mechanism was only affected in mice that were exposed to cigarette smoke, but not after contact with the vapor of the e-cigarettes. (as)

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