E-cigarettes are not safe, additives may impair lung function | fitness

Flavouring and additive ingredients in e-cigarettes may increase inflammation and impair lung function, according to a study. The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, also found that short-term exposure to e-cigarettes was enough to cause lung inflammation similar or worse than that seen in traditional cigarette use.

E-cigarettes, popular battery-powered devices that simulate the act of smoking a traditional cigarette, dispense a vapour derived from liquid chemicals in a refillable cartridge. The refills typically contain propylene glycol, nicotine and often flavourings, said researchers from the University of Athens Medical School in Greece.

Propylene glycol — a colourless, odourless food additive — is found in numerous processed food and beverages; it is also used as a solvent in a number of pharmaceuticals. E-cigarette devices and refills are not well regulated, and the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are not widely known.

Researchers studied several groups of mice that received whole-body exposure to varying chemical combinations four times each day. Each exposure session was separated by 30-minute smoke-free intervals. The cigarette and e-cigarette groups were compared with a control group that was exposed to medical-grade air.

The condition of the e-cigarette groups in comparison with the cigarette group surprised the researchers. The level of oxidative stress — stress at a cellular level — in the flavouring group was equal to or higher than that of the cigarette group. However, respiratory mechanics were adversely affected only in mice exposed to cigarette smoke and not to e-cigarette vapour after prolonged treatment.

“The observed detrimental effects in the lung upon (e-cigarette) vapour exposure in animal models highlight the need for further investigation of safety and toxicity of these rapidly expanding devices worldwide,” the researchers said.

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First Published: Oct 13, 2018 13:17 IST

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