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E-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think but vaping is still safer than tobacco smoking

E-cigarette vapour boosts the production of inflammatory chemicals and disables key protective cells in the lung that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles, reveals a new study in the journal Thorax.

The vapour impairs the activity of alveolar macrophages, which engulf and remove dust particles, bacteria, and allergens that have evaded the other mechanical defences of the respiratory tract.

The findings prompt the researchers to suggest that while further research is needed to better understand the long term health impact of vaping on people, e-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think.  They say some of the effects of e-cigarettes were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease.

They conclude that the vaping process itself can damage vital immune system cells, at least under laboratory conditions.

But PCRS-UK Chair Noel Baxter, says:  “Electronic cigarette vapour is expected to be pro-inflammatory because of its known constituents and so this petri dish study looking at lung cells taken from never smokers exposed to these toxins confirms this expectation. Vaping is not safe.

“Fortunately, never-smokers as a proportion of people who vape is negligible so the question still most relevant for today’s health care professional is whether it is safer for a current or relapsing tobacco smoker to vape or to smoke tobacco?

“The Royal College of Physicians, Public Health England and PCRS-UK continue to support vaping as a safer option to tobacco smoking where the patient asks about the best of these two options as it will substantially reduce the risk of early death.

“Unfortunately the belief that vaping is more dangerous than tobacco smoking still persists amongst many smokers which prevents them from opting for what is currently evidenced to be the safest option.”

PCRS-UK believes supporting patients to quit smoking is the business of every health professional. Use this PCRS-UK resource to help even more patients to quit.

PCRS Produced / Collaboration
Clinical Area: 
Tobacco smoking and nicotine
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