E-cigarettes Can Still Damage The Lungs
September 3, 2012

Study Casts Doubts On Safety Of Electronic Cigarettes

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Smokers looking for a safe way to help kick the habit should refrain from using electronic cigarettes, as experts presented new research Sunday suggesting that the devices can still damage a person's lungs.

The research, which was presented at the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) Annual Congress in Vienna, originated from researchers at the University of Athens.

In order to measure the safety of these products, which use vapor instead of smoke to deliver nicotine into a person's system, the researchers recruited a total of 32 subjects, officials from the European Lung Foundation (ELF) said in a September 2 statement.

Eight of those individuals had never smoked, 11 were smokers with regular pulmonary function, and 13 were smokers suffering from either asthma or COPD. Each study participant used an e-cigarette for 10 minutes, and were then given a spirometry test (to measure their lung function) and other, similar tests by researchers.

"The results showed that for all people included in the study, the e-cigarette caused an immediate increase in airway resistance, lasting for 10 minutes. In healthy subjects (never smokers) there was a statistically significant increase in airway resistance from a mean average of 182% to 206%," ERS officials said. "In smokers with normal spirometry there was a statistically significant increase from a mean average of 176% to 220%. In COPD and asthma patients the use of one e-cigarette seemed to have no immediate effect to airway resistance."

While there is no combustion involved in e-cigarettes, the nicotine contained within the device is still derived from tobacco, the respiratory agency explained. To date, there has been little scientific evidence establishing the relative safety (or riskiness) of these smoking cessation aids, which inspired the University of Athens team to conduct exactly how they impact different types of people, at least on a short-term basis.

"We do not yet know whether unapproved nicotine delivery products, such as e-cigarettes, are safer than normal cigarettes, despite marketing claims that they are less harmful. This research helps us to understand how these products could be potentially harmful," Christina Gratziou, one of the study authors as well as the Chair of the ERS Tobacco Control Committee, said in a statement.

"We found an immediate rise in airway resistance in our group of participants, which suggests e-cigarettes can cause immediate harm after smoking the device. More research is needed to understand whether this harm also has lasting effects in the long-term," she added. "The ERS recommends following effective smoking cessation treatment guidelines based on clinical evidence which do not advocate the use of such products."