You said you would never smoke, but once electronic cigarettes became popular and you heard they were safe, you gave them a try. Or maybe you have been a long-time smoker and decide to switch from cigarettes to the new electronic smoking fad because you heard it’s better for your lungs than all the chemicals in smoke from tobacco products. A new study may have you thinking about this new craze.
E-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens–whatever you want to call them–have only been on the market for a few years. Researchers are just now reporting findings from their studies as to whether these devices pose any harm for users. While many believe they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, the question is, are they harmless? The answer to that question is…no.
U.S. researchers conducted a small study and looked at how e-cigarettes affect the lungs. They found the vapor “affects cells in the lungs in the same way as cigarette smoke, even after just one hour.” In normal lungs, the walls of the alveoli which exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, are made up of protein. They break down and they re-generate themselves and function correctly in a process known as proteostatis. In smoker’s lungs, this process doesn’t function in the same way; the alveoli become damaged and don’t re-generate, meaning fewer alveoli to exchange the much-needed oxygen. That’s why people with emphysema have such a difficult time breathing.
The researchers exposed cells from the lining of the bronchi, the tubes that carry oxygen to the lungs, to e-cigarette vapor from one to six hours. Even the minimal exposure “disrupted the protein processes in cells ‘significantly’.” The mice that were exposed to e-cigarette vapors also showed the same damage. Researchers are worried that this exposure to e-cigarette vapor could lead to COPD.
There are long-term studies on the health effects of smoking cigarettes, but not on using e-cigarettes. Even with the reduced harm of e-cigarettes, researchers are concerned that the use could lead to chronic lung conditions.
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