iNews Online: E-cigarette users risking ‘dangerous levels’ of lung inflammation

Press/Media: Research


Thousands of electronic cigarette users are risking dangerous levels of lung inflammation because of chemicals in the vapour they inhale, a new study has found.

Dr Andrew Higham from the University of Manchester says the vapour inhaled by e-smokers contains formaldehyde and acrolein – chemicals also found in traditional cigarettes – which could be harmful long term.

The university says its study, which used three brands of e-cigarettes to examine the effects of vaping on white blood cells taken from 10 non-smokers, is the first of its kind and will “empower” Britain’s estimated three million “vapers” to make “informed decisions” about whether to keep using them.

Last year, Public Health England urged Britain’s eight million cigarette smokers to start vaping after a government-backed report found that e-cigarettes were 20 times less harmful than tobacco.

But Dr Higham said: “Our research shows quite clearly that there are risks associated with long-term use of these devices in terms of pulmonary inflammation.

“There has been a lot of public discussion on e-cigarettes, but we think that the public needs to be aware of the potential harm these devices may cause, which will empower users to make informed decisions.”

The publication of the research comes a day after researchers at Imperial College London warned that people are still taking a ”bet“ by using the electronic devices and the long-term health risks were still unknown.

The Manchester study was funded by and conducted at the North West Lung Centre at the University Hospital of South Manchester – a world leading treatment and research centre for lung disease – and at the university’s Institute of Biotechnology.

It found that raised white blood cell activity in response to e-cigarette exposure was similar to that observed in smokers of traditional cigarettes and was characteristic of the debilitating lung condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Vaping is on the rise

The research is set to fuel the debate on e-cigarette safety. Separate figures show the proportion of people in Britain who have tried an e-cigarette increased from 8.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent between 2012 and 2014.

Most were smokers, but the number of non-smokers using electronic devices rose from 0.8 per cent to 2.1 per cent in the same period.

The Welsh Government this week dropped plans to enforce a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in a number of public places in Wales.

The electronic cigarette industry points to a separate report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, which was published last month.

That report says: ”Some of the carcinogens, oxidants and other toxins present in tobacco smoke have also been detected in e-cigarette vapour, raising the possibility that long-term use of e-cigarettes may increase the risk of lung cancer, COPD, cardiovascular and other smoking-related diseases.

“However, the magnitude of such risks is likely to be substantially lower than those of smoking and extremely low in absolute terms.”

Less harmful than tobacco

Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, said: “A large number of studies on cell cultures have been done and they indicate that the vapour from e-cigarettes is much less harmful than smoke.

”A recent study which constantly exposed cells to e-cigarette vapour for eight weeks found some changes, but exposure to cigarette smoke under the same conditions killed so many of the cells in 24 hours that the experiment could not be run for longer.

“While vaping e-cigarettes is going to carry some small risk, it is without doubt much safer than continuing to smoke.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “While e-cigarettes are not 100 per cent safe, the crucial point is that they carry a fraction of the risk of smoking.

Harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke are either completely absent in e-cigarette vapour or, if present, are much lower than in tobacco smoke.

“However smokers increasingly believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking and this mistaken belief may be discouraging some smokers from switching. The best thing a smoker can do is to quit completely, now and forever.”

Period25 May 2016

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