- A new study has found that e-cigarette smokers are likely to develop dangerous proteins associated with COPD and cystic fibrosis
- Researchers discovered that the devices harm users’ airways as well as the tissues that line their blood vessels and organs
- The report contributes to the controversy over whether or not e-cigarettes are ‘healthy’
E-cigarettes lead to as many lung diseases as tobacco products, a new study has found.
The report from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill compared saliva samples from tobacco smokers, e-cigarette smokers and nonsmokers.
Researchers found that e-cigarette smokers were likely to develop dangerous proteins associated with lung diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis and that the devices are no better for people than regular cigarettes.
The study adds to a growing body of evidence proving that e-cigarettes might not be the ideal alternative smokers addicted to tobacco are looking for.
Last year a Surgeon General’s report claimed that the use of e-cigarettes among high school students jumped 900 percent from 2011 and 2015. That same year, the FDA lumped e-cigarettes in with the tobacco products the administration monitors.
Previous research from UCLA has proven that e-cigarettes can cause lifelong damage to one’s heart, and a report from West Virginia University also found that one puff of an e-cigarette is all it takes to increase one’s risk of having a heart attack.
For the new study UNC researchers observed 15 e-cigarette users, 14 cigarette smokers and 15 nonsmokers. The smoking status of the participants was confirmed with a urine test.
The study revealed that e-cigarette smokers have elevated levels of neutrophil-extracellular-trap (NET)-related proteins in their airways. NET proteins fight off pathogens, but increased levels of them can lead to inflammatory lung illnesses.
The proteins are associated with COPD and cystic fibrosis, both of which make it hard for patients to breathe.
E-cigarette smokers also have increased NET levels outside of their lungs, according to the study. This can cause cell death in tissues that line organs and blood vessels.
The study’s authors associated this increase with inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, lupus and vasculitis, but they said more research needs to be done to confirm this link.
Additionally, the analysis said e-cigarette smokers have an increased risk of suffering from bronchitis, asthma, bronchiectasis and wheezing.
Study author Dr Mehmet Kesimer said: ‘There is confusion about whether e-cigarettes are “safer” than cigarettes because the potential adverse effects of e-cigarettes are only beginning to be studied.
‘Our results suggest that e-cigarettes might be just as bad as cigarettes.’
Dr Keismer also stressed that e-cigarettes come with their own harmful risks along with those linked to tobacco.
He said: ‘Our data shows that e-cigarettes have a signature of harm in the lung that is both similar and unique, which challenges the concept that switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative.’
* * *