A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is showing that electronic cigarettes have now surpassed regular cigarettes among high school and middle school students. While this might seem like good news, it has parents, doctors and the government wondering whether e-cigarettes are really good for your lungs or if they cause the same damage as normal cigarettes. A team of researchers has found through a new study that any forms of nicotine is damaging, and the non-nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes are also damaging to the lungs. This new study has the researchers calling for more research and regulations on the electronic cigarettes, and the possible damage it could be causing if used for extended periods of time.
The lung contains endothelial cells, which help make up the linings of the lungs, and loss of inttegrity of it can contribute to lung inflammation and injury. It is not known though what part of the cigarette smoke causes the integrity of the endothelial cells to breakdown however. The researchers wanted to see if the nicotine altered the endothelial cells in any way by affecting the cytoskeletal regulation, which is the matrix inside that supports the shape and function of the cells.
The researchers ended up exposing human and mouse cells to the cigarette smoke and the electronic cigarette solution, with some of it containing nicotine while others were nicotine-free. The researchers found out how the cigarette smoke damaged the lungs, which pointed directly at nicotine for being the cause of the damage. The nicotine has a dose-dependent deleterious pulmonary effect which resulted in the direct loss of function of the endothelial cells in the lungs. There was also acute lung inflammation and decreased lung endothelial cell proliferation. The cigarettes and electronic cigarettes that contained nicotine both showed this same result.
The researchers also noted that there were lung-harming substances found in the nicotine-free electronic cigarette solution as well. One of the lung-harming substances is known as acrolein, which is present in the vapor and the electronic cigarette solution, has already been shown to damage the lungs. This substance attacks the molecules that hold the endothelial cells together, which then alters the integrity of the cells, and changes how they function and look.
In terms of young people, the increase of using these electronic cigarettes has been what has promoted a lot more research into the effects of the electronic cigarettes. This one one study that shows that the commercially available electronic cigarettes contain the substances that can cause lung inflammation, especially once the solution has been heated and turned into vapor. There will need to be more studies on the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes because there is still so much that is not known about it at this point, given that they have only become really popular within the last 6 years. The results of this particular study do show that you should still be cautious if you plan on smoking cigarettes electronically, because there is still the risk of lung damage, which can lead to a variety of lung diseases and complications later on in life.
The researchers are warning young people that regular and continuous use of electronic cigarettes could be nearly as dangerous for the lungs as smoking regular cigarettes. There has also been calls for more regulations on the electronic cigarette market, which is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration like other tobacco products are. The Food and Drug Administration has said they would like to hear more information about the effects and long-term complications of electronic cigarette use before issuing a ruling on the safety of the products. Since these products are still relatively new, there will need to be a lot more studies on the effects of the products on parts of the body before any real regulations would be able to take effect. More researchers however are calling on making it tougher for younger people to get a hold of these products, especially as more information comes out about how damaging they could be if used for long periods of time or used just as regularly as cigarettes.