New 'safer' e-cigarettes are 'JUST as dangerous for your lungs as vaping and smoking'
A new study that directly compares new heated tobacco devices with vaping and traditional cigarettes shows that all three are toxic to human lung cells.
The new device, which heats solid tobacco instead of e-liquid has been found to be just as toxic to the cells as ordinary cigarette smoke.
Experts say their study confirms the idea that newer electronic nicotine delivery devices might not be a safer substitute for regular smoking.
The study was led by Dr Pawan Sharma, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia.
He said: "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and with the introduction of e-cigs in the last decade, the trend of nicotine uptake is not going to slow down in the near future.
"If the current trend continues, tobacco use will cause more than eight million deaths annually by 2030 around the world.
"The latest addition in this emerging trend is the planned and vigorous introduction of heated tobacco devices.
"They are commonly called next generation or heat-not-burn products. We know very little about the health effects of these new devices, so we designed this research to compare them with cigarette smoking and vaping."
Scientists tested the effects of all three nicotine sources on two types of cells taken from the human airways. Smoking can lead to difficulty in breathing primarily by stopping the normal functions of these cells.
Are e-cigs bad for you?
This new study has found that e-cigs really aren't as bad for you as traditional smoking or these new heated tobacco devices.
In fact, vaping has been found to be twice as effective as nicotine patches and gum at helping people quit smoking, a recent study found.
Almost two in ten e-cig users kicked the habit after a year compared with one in ten who used the other aids.
But that's not to say that vaping isn't also without its risks.
Revealed last month that using e-cigs increases your risk of having a stroke, heart attack and developing coronary heart disease significantly.
Scientists found that vaping can increase your risk of stroke by as much as 71 per cent, compared with non-smokers.
That's still a lot lower than the risks associated with smoking tobacco but it's worth realising that all smoking devices are damaging to some degree.
Dr Sharma and his team exposed the cells to different concentrations of cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapour and liquid from a heated tobacco device, and measured whether this was damaging to cells and whether it affected the cells' normal functions.
The researchers found that cigarette smoke and heated tobacco vapour were highly toxic to the cells both at lower and higher concentrations while e-cig vapour was only really toxic at higher concentrations.
Experts say that these concentrations represent the levels of nicotine found in chronic smokers.
Dr Sukhwinder Sohal, a researcher at the University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia, and leading author on the study, said: "What came out clearly was that the newer products were in no way less toxic to cells than conventional cigarettes or e-cigarette vaping."
Dr Sharma added: "Our results suggest that all three are toxic to the cells of our lungs and that these new heated tobacco devices are as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes.
"It took us nearly five decades to understand the damaging effects of cigarette smoke and we don't yet know the long-term impact of using e-cigarettes. These devices that heat solid tobacco are relatively new and it will be decades before we will fully understand their effects on human health.
"What we do know is that damage to these two types of lung cells can destroy lung tissue leading to fatal diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia, and can increase the risk of developing asthma, so we should not assume that these devices are a safer option."
The next stage of investigations, Dr Sharma hopes, is going to be studying the effects of nicotine devices on lung tissue in mice.
Professor Charlotta Pisinger is Chair of the European Respiratory Society's Tobacco Control Committee and was not involved in the research.
She said: "These new heated tobacco devices are marketed as producing 95 per cent lower levels of toxic compounds because the tobacco is heated, not burned.
"However, the first independent studies have shown that combustion is taking place and toxic and carcinogenic compounds are released, some in lower levels than in conventional cigarette smoke, others in higher levels.
"A review of the tobacco industry's own data on these devices has shown that, in rats, there is evidence of lung inflammation, and there is no evidence of improvement in lung inflammation and function in smokers who switch to heated tobacco.
"The introduction and vigorous marketing of new devices is very tempting to smokers who want to stop smoking and mistakenly believe they can switch to another harmless tobacco product.
"It is also opening another avenue for attracting young people to use and become addicted to nicotine.
"This study adds to evidence that these new devices are not the safe substitute to cigarette smoking they are promoted to be."
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