More Evidence Against Vaping
The similarities to cigarettes keep mounting: A new study finds vaping makes the lungs as vulnerable to infections as smoking the traditional way
Similarities to Cigarettes Keep Mounting
Amid more than 50 deaths and thousands of hospitalizations in the U.S. attributed to e-cigaretteor vaping- associated lung injury, and the CDC’S recommendation to refrain from all vaping products pending their investigation, comes a new study.
Scientists found that vaping may carry the same risk as cigarette smoke when it comes to making the lungs more susceptible to infections, and they published this research in mid-december in the journal Respiratory Research.
Vaping is the inhalation of a heated liquid, which becomes aerosolized. It was introduced to the market in the U.S. in 2007, and according to Euromonitor International, the number of vapers has increased from about 7 million in 2011 to 41 million in 2018.
To reach their conclusion, researchers grew bacteria in a lab and exposed them to e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke.
The bugs in question—haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa—can live in the lungs without causing problems.
But the bacteria can cause a “toxic mix of infection and inflammation” in the lungs of people who already have conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis and asthma, study co-author Dr.
Deirdre Gilpin of the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast told Newsweek.
“This can result in the lungs becoming damaged and not able to function well,” Gilpin said.
However, when the team exposed the bacteria to cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor, they became more virulent, or potentially harmful, in a way that could cause diseases such as COPD and asthma, Gilpin explained.
While she didn’t expect this, Gilpin found the changes in bacteria exposed to e-cigarette vapor to be the same—and sometimes greater— than those seen with cigarette smoke. “This suggests that vaping may carry the same risk as cigarette smoke in increasing the susceptibility to bacteria infection,” Gilpin said.
However, she also highlighted that both the smoke and vapor were generated in the lab in the same way. But in real life, people smoke and vape differently, as the latter requires a deeper inhalation, and people may vape for longer at each session.
“It’s possible that the effects we observed with vape could be potentially greater in real life,” she said. Gilpin added that there are thousands of different e-cigarette flavors on the market, some of which are toxic. Investigating these in the future and with more patient samples is “really important,” she said.
“Ideally we would encourage— particularly young non-smokers—not to start vaping,” Gilpin continued. She suggested that people trying to quit smoking use alternative methods.
“Vaping is often quoted as being less harmful than smoking,” Gilpin stressed. “But less harmful isn’t the same as safe, and results from our study suggest that exposing lung bacteria to vape may carry the same risk as smoking.”
“We urgently need more research about the long-term effects of vaping on the lungs,” she concluded.
Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School and a spokesperson for the American Lung Association, who did not work on the research, commented on the paper. Referring to the bacteria which populate the lungs, he told Newsweek, the study “tells us that vaping may begin to change the microbiome of our lungs.”
“Our lungs’ normal microbiomes are made of bacteria that live in an ecological community in a symbiotic relationship with our lungs. When we allow the prevalence of more pathogenic bacteria to increase (e.g., Pseudomonas) and/or become more virulent, then we create a susceptibility to disease initiation and/or progression,” explained Galiatsatos.
Asked whether those who use e-cigarettes should stop, he said doctors should tell their patients “to stop smoking, whether combustible or electronic cigarettes.”
“More importantly, any activity that has the ability to weaken lung immune defenses and tip the microbiome in favor of pathogenic bacteria, then these persons will be more susceptible to lung-related diseases in the future,” Galiatsatos said.
UP IN SMOKE Vaping may change the microbiome of our lungs, according to Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a spokesman for the American Lung Association. This could weaken immune defenses and make people “more susceptible to lung-related diseases in the future.”