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New study suggests vaping damages the immune system

Though scientists still know little about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on the human body, they just found the devices to be causing significant cellular and molecular changes in the lungs.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that vapes are all the rage.

Replacing one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide, these days they are, quite literally, everywhere.

Regularly seen in the hands of young people due to their affordability, the popularity of these small, brightly-coloured, single-use devices has far surpassed that of cigarettes.

This was confirmed by several recent studies, one of which found the number of British smokers to have dropped below 15 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with a dramatic uptick in vaping from one to 57 per cent during 2021.

Yet surprisingly, fairly little remains understood when it comes to the health implications of inhaling vapes on a regular basis.

Until now, the only downside to this favoured (and flavoured) alternative to puffing on a slender harbinger of disease has been the supposed ‘popcorn lungs’ you might develop if you’re addicted to it.

That, and the obvious environmental repercussions of our obsession with this lesser of two evils.

The Issue Of Disposable Vape Waste - Ecigclick

Unfortunately, as is often the case with rumours and (regrettably) alarming information about our planet’s demise, none of this has succeeded in convincing the masses to ditch their shiny plastic nicotine sticks once and for all.

This new study might, however. It comes amid the boom in vaping product sales across the globe, which has scientists more concerned than ever before about the habit’s unidentified long-term effects on the human body.

To address the gaps, co-author Carolyn Baglole and her team studied how eight to 12-week-old mice were affected by vaping, when exposed to it three times a day over a four-week period.

Using Juul vapour, the mice were hotboxed with one group experiencing a Juul smoke regime of three 20-minute puff exposures per day, for a month.

They were given one puff per minute, with about three hours in between each session – a routine designed to mimic the habits of light and moderate Juul users.

There were also two control groups – to help determine if it really was Juul causing the changes – who were exposed to either a control liquid or standard room air.

‘We were quite surprised to see so many different changes,’ says Baglole. ‘Even if we don’t see massive damage to the lungs, we see pretty substantial changes that could indicate damage in the future.’

What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes? | The BMJ

As she explains, supporting what scarce research has already been done, the results demonstrate that even low, repeated exposure to vape smoke can impact the lungs at a cellular and molecular level, meaning the smoke changes how information is ‘read’ from DNA.

This, Baglole adds, set off significantly more alarm bells than she and her team expected – but it wasn’t even the study’s biggest discovery.

As it reveals, there was an increase in the mice’s lung neutrophils (white blood cells that fight off infection), too.

This suggests that vaping could be causing a chain reaction that scientists can’t see, where smoke triggers an alarm signal to the body, asking the immune system forces for help against potential danger.

Simply put, it’s thought that vaping makes the body more vulnerable to developing inflammatory or autoimmune diseases – like pulmonary fibrosis or lupus – and puts vapers at a higher risk of chronic lung disease or certain lung cancers.

‘Any change in the immune state of a lung is highly concerning because it tells you that the lung is going to respond differently when it has other challenges,’ says Laura Crotty Alexander, an expert in pulmonology who’s own experiments imply that if a human who vapes were to get bacterial pneumonia, they’d likely respond more severely than someone who doesn’t vape.

‘I still think vaping is the lesser of two evils, but it’s more evil than I thought it would be,’ she concludes.