Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vaping -- Is it really safer than smoking?

So what's with this whole vaping craze? Everywhere you look, new vapor stores are popping up, promising the best of the best. Best of what? Carcinogens? Toxins? I mean, seriously, is vaping any safer than smoking? Perhaps. But there are growing concerns. The fact is that e-cigarette generate toxins much like the ones found in tobacco. Studies out of Johns Hopkins University suggest vaping may be harmful not only to the lungs but to the immune system as well. 

Like many research studies, testing was done on mice and the findings were disturbing, especially in light of the fact that three years ago, an estimated 250,000 teens in the U.S. were using e-cigarettes, even though those same teenagers never smoked regular cigarettes.

According to Professor Shyam Biswai, who led the study (published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE), the findings indicate that e-cigarettes negatively affect the lungs. 

"We have observed that they increase the susceptibility to respiratory infections in the mouse models," Professor Biswai said. "This warrants further study in susceptible individuals, such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder] patients who have switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, or to new users of e-cigarettes who may have never used cigarettes."

Dr. Thomas Sussan, co-author of the study at Johns Hopkins, added, "E-cigarette vapor alone produced mild effects on the lungs, including inflammation and protein damage. However, when this exposure was followed by a bacterial or viral infection, the harmful effects of e-cigarette exposure became even more pronounced. 

"The e-cigarette exposure inhibited the ability of mice to clear the bacteria from their lungs, and the viral infection led to increased weight loss and death, indicative of an impaired immune system."

Even though e-cigarettes do not produce combustion products, they still pose a possible risk to health. Additional research reveals a correlation of vaping to multiple health problems, including "asthma, lung inflammation, MRSA infection risk and exposure to harmful chemicals."

In case you're not familiar with e-cigarettes, here is an explanation from the American Lung Association: "The main component of e-cigarettes is the e-liquid contained in the cartridges. To create an e-liquid, nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a base (usually propylene glycol), and may also include flavorings, colorings and other chemicals. Because there is no government oversight of these products, nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are on the market, all without an FDA evaluation determining what's in them. So there is no way for anyone -- healthcare professionals or consumers -- to know what chemicals are contained in 3-liquids, or how e-cigarette use might affect health, whether in the short term or in the long run."

Granted, I often have little use for the FDA, but the above statements are disturbing. If you're vaping, you have no idea what toxins you may be inhaling. Yikes.

And it's not just your lungs at risk, either. Additional research links vaping with mental health issues and heart disease. Not good.

Researchers at the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology suggests vaping could be linked to suppressed immune genes, which actually is more harmful than cigarette smoke. The study was presented at the 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C. and included these findings:

E-cig users showed the same changes in immune genes as cigarette smokers. However, e-cig users also demonstrated suppression of several additional immune genes, suggesting even broader suppressive effects on respiratory mucosal immune responses as compared to cigarette smokers.

So, back to the original question. Is vaping really safer than smoking? And again, I say, perhaps. But the emerging concerns seem valid enough to stay away from it. Far, far away. 

What do you think?

Click here for more information on the health risks associated with vaping.

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