Long-term vaping may damage lung immune cells, warn researchers
London: With vaping becoming a style statement globally including in India, a small yet significant study has found that vaporisers may potentially disable key immune cells in the lung and boosts inflammation if used for long.
The e-cigarette vapour boosts the production of inflammatory chemicals and disables key protective cells in the lung that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles, revealed the study published online in the journal Thorax.
Vaporisers are different from traditional e-cigarettes in terms of the range of flavours, mixing, better user control and large battery use.
According to Professor David Thickett from Britain’s University of Birmingham, many e-cigarette companies have been bought up by the tobacco giants, “and there’s certainly an agenda to portray e-cigarettes as safe”.
While e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, they may still be harmful in the long term, Thickett explained as the current body of research is in its infancy and not able to answer that question yet.
“In terms of cancer causing molecules in cigarette smoke, as opposed to cigarette vapour, there are certainly reduced numbers of carcinogens. They are safer in terms of cancer risk, but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD, then that’s something we need to know about,” he stated.
“I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes,” he said, adding that “But we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe.”
Although vaping is increasing in popularity, most of the current body of research has focused only on the chemical composition of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped.
However, the study stated that the effects are similar to those seen in regular smokers and patients with chronic lung disease.
It showed that the vaping process itself could damage vital immune system cells, at least under laboratory conditions.
According to Thickett, the vapour produced by an e-cigarette boosts the production of inflammatory chemicals and disables key protective cells in the lung that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles.
The vapour then impairs the activity of alveolar macrophages — which engulf and remove dust particles, bacteria — and allergens that have evaded the other mechanical defences of the respiratory tract.
The findings suggested that while further research is needed to better understand the long-term health impact of vaping on people, e-cigarette vapour may be more harmful than we think.