The vaping industry promotes their products as a “safer” and “less harmful” form of smoking, but don’t be fooled by their words. A recent study looked at how nicotine from vaping, traditional cigarettes, and heat-not-burn devices like IQOS affects the epithelial cells and smooth muscle cells of the lungs and found that the newer products were not less toxic than traditional cigarette smoking.
Epithelial cells line the respiratory passageways from the nasal cavity to the bronchi and work to moisten and protect the lungs from infection and environmental factors like dust from getting into the airways. Smooth muscle cells maintain the structure of the airway, and help regulate the flow of air into the lungs.
Researchers exposed both types of cells to conventional cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor. They also used an IQOS system, a heat-not-burn tobacco device that heats up solid tobacco. Both lower and higher concentrations of cigarette smoke and heated tobacco vapor were highly toxic to lung cells. E-cigarette vapor was toxic at higher concentrations. The concentrations “represent the levels of nicotine found in chronic smokers.” The researchers discovered that the new products “were in no way less toxic to cells than conventional cigarettes or e-cigarette vaping,” and that the new devices are “as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes.” The IQOS system is currently not approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S.
It has taken researchers nearly five decades to understand the dangers of cigarette smoke, but e-cigarettes have only been on the market for a decade so long-term impact will take many years to discover. What researchers currently know is that damage to the two types of lung cells can destroy lung tissue causing fatal diseases such as COPD and lung cancer, and the development of other diseases such as asthma and pneumonia.
Never assume a new device is a safer option just because the industry tells you so.
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