The introduction of the E-cigarette has been hailed as a revolutionary modern alternative to cigarettes, often seen as healthier because they don’t contain tobacco or the assortment of other harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. However, some studies suggest that E-cigs can be equally as harmful because the cocktail of chemicals they do contain may be causing inflammatory diseases.
If this is found to the the case, where does the E-cig revolution go from here?
Earlier in the year, E-cig devices were linked to increasing heart disease, and a recent scientific study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that ‘vaping’ can increase the levels of innate defence proteins inside the lungs. This has been associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Researchers at the University made the study by comparing the sputum samples from 15 non-smokers, 14 cigarette smokers and 15 e-cigarette smokers. They came to the discerning conclusion that, “e-cigarettes might be just as bad as cigarettes“, in terms of the risk of developing COPD and cystic fibrosis.
NHS guidance notes lists some symptoms of COPD as:
- Increasing breathlessness, particularly when you’re doing something active
- A persistent chesty cough with phlegm – often dismissed as a ‘smoker’s cough’
- Frequent chest infections
- Persistent wheezing
Other less common symptoms can include:
- Weight loss
- Swollen ankles
- Chest pain and coughing up blood
Without appropriate treatment, these symptoms can gradually get worse, getting in the way of daily activities.
Treatments can include:
- Inhalers and medication
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Surgery or a lung transplant
The study also found a significant number of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETS) outside of the lung. These are associated with the death of cells from the tissues lining blood vessels and organs. Some researchers believe the increase is linked to systematic inflammatory diseases including lupus, vasculitis and psoriasis.
Dr Mehmet Kesimer who led the study warns that:
“…there is confusion about whether e-cigarettes are ‘safer’ than cigarettes because the potential adverse effects of e-cigarettes are only beginning to be studied.”
Marketers for the relatively new devices have taken advantage of the lack of research into the new and innovative devices in pushing sales. According to Kessimer’s words, with so little being known about e-cigs, they could be just as bad as or even worse than cigarettes in terms of health impact.
For those who are using e-cigs as a step towards quitting altogether, the bad news doesn’t stop there; other scientific studies reportedly found them somewhat ineffective for this purpose:
“Individuals who had tried e-cigarettes as a way to reduce their use of conventional cigarettes were actually less likely to reduce their use or quit combustible cigarettes than those who had never tried e-cigarettes,” lead-author from an earlier study by the same university, M. Bradley Drummond, said, “the data further suggest that there’s no clear benefit of e-cigarettes as a harm-reduction strategy in this population of smokers with or at-risk for COPD.”
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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