Vaping 'can damage vital immune system cells'

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A third of the cells were exposed to plain e-cigarette fluid, a third to different strengths of the artificially vaped condensate with and without nicotine and a third to nothing for 24 hours.The condensate was found to be more harmful to the cells than plain e-cigarette fluid.

"They are safer in terms of cancer risk, but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD, then that's something we need to know about". The research which is still in its infancy was published online in the journal Thorax.

Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, said this is a particularly poignant finding for those who plan on using e-cigarettes long term, rather than as a transitional stage to quit entirely.

While e-cigarettes are safer in terms of cancer risk, there may be a greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after vaping for a number of years, said lead study author, Professor David Thickett.

The review concluded there was "overwhelming evidence" they were far safer than smoking and "of negligible risk to bystanders" and advised they should be available on prescription because of how successful they had been in helping people give up smoking.

To get a more accurate representation of the effects of inhaling e-cigarettes, the Birmingham researchers came up with a way to create condensed vapour, which is closer to what lung cells encounter.

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Researchers from University of Birmingham and Swansea University in the United Kingdom devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping and produce condensate from the vapour.

The vapour was found to boost the production of inflammatory chemicals and disable key protective cells in the lung that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles.

As he said, "with regard to the carcinogenic molecules contained in regular cigarette smoke, electronic vapor certainly contains fewer carcinogens". But it appears that the vaping process itself can damage immune system cells - at least in the lab, Thickett said.

'I don't believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes.

The US Surgeon General has however issued warnings that use of e-cigarettes among the young can lead to several problems such as nicotine addiction, mood swings and impairment of brain development. They noticed that the damage to the lung tissues caused by the vapours were same as those seen in regular smokers.

This week the government's Science and Technology committee would release a report on the safety of e-cigarette smoke.

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