According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the utilization of electronic cigarettes (e-cig) among middle and high school students has surpassed traditional cigarette usage. This raises questions and parents, public health officials and the consumers themselves are concerned if e-cig are better or worse than traditional tobacco.
In an article titled “Endothelial disruptive pro-inflammatory effects of nicotine and e-cigarette vapor exposures” , published in the American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, a team of researchers explains that nicotine causes damage to the lungs in any form. Further, non-nicotine e-cig cigarettes alos cause lung damages, although further research is still required.
Cigarettes cause lung endothelial cells to breakdown due to inflammation and lung injury, however it remains unclear the exact component that causes this damage. “We investigated if nicotine, one of the hundreds of molecules present in [cigarette smoke] extracts, is sufficient to alter lung endothelial barrier function by affecting cytoskeletal regulation,” the authors explained.
Human and mouse cells were exposed to cigarette smoke and e-cigarettes with or without nicotine. Findings put nicotine as the major cause of lung damage. “Nicotine has dose-dependent deleterious pulmonary effects that result in loss of lung endothelial barrier function, acute lung inflammation and decreased lung endothelial cell proliferation,” the authors stated.
However, nicotine-free solutions also had lung-harming substances like acrolein. “The increased use of inhaled nicotine via e-cigarettes, especially among the youth, prompts increased research into the effects on health. This research reports that components found in commercially available e-cigarette solutions and vapors generated by heating them may cause lung inflammation,” said Irina Petrache, lead researcher. “The effects described characterize short-term effects of e-cig exposures. Whereas studies of long-term effects await further investigations, these results caution that e-cigarette inhalation may be associated with adverse effects on lung health.”