A new study has found that use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of developing lung disease in the future as it damages the immune system and boosts inflammation.
According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham, the vapor inhaled from e-cigarettes damages immune cells and prevents them from clearing out harmful bacteria. The cells are important to remove dust particles, bacteria, and allergens from the body.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers extracted cells from lung samples provided by eight healthy non-smokers. They devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping in the laboratory. The researchers then exposed the cells to e-cig fluid, some to condensed vapor and some to nothing for 24 hours.
It was found that vapor caused inflammation and impaired the activity of alveolar macrophages, cells that remove potentially damaging dust particles, bacteria, and allergens. Shockingly, some of the effects were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease. The effects were worse when it contained nicotine.
“Importantly, exposure of macrophages to vaporized fluid induced many of the same cellular and functional changes in alveolar macrophage function seen in cigarette smokers and patients with COPD,” the study noted.
According to lead study author, Professor David Thickett, while e-cigarettes are safer in terms of cancer risk than ordinary cigarettes, there may be a greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the long run.
“I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes, but we should have a cautious skepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe,” Thickett said.
The researchers have cautioned that the results are only in laboratory conditions and the changes recorded took place only over 48 hours. So, they believe that further research is needed to better understand the long-term health impact.