Trending News: Is This The Final Verdict On E-Cigarettes?
By Ian Lang
Why Is This Important?
Because smoking is shaping up to be the most studied vice of the 21st century.
Long Story Short
A group of German researchers found that on the whole, cigarette smoke is far more damaging to lung tissue than the vapor emitted by e-cigarettes. This was true whether or not the e-cigarette liquids contained nicotine.
Good Lord, will the e-cigarette whirlwind ever stop? I’ve only been covering this beat for a couple of months now, but every week it seems as though there’s new evidence to refute last week’s evidence. This time, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the vapers: German researchers found that tobacco smoke is significantly more harmful to lung tissue than the vapor emitted by e-cigarettes.
For the study, the researchers commissioned lung tissue from two donors. They exposed the bronchial cells to vapor of e-cigarette liquid with or without nicotine, vapor of the carrier substances propylene glycol and glycerol as well as to mainstream smoke from cigarettes. To test the effects, they waited 24 hours and then measured both cell viability and oxidative stress levels.
The results were pretty stark: Cells exposed to tobacco smoke were 4.5-8x less viable than those exposed to vapor, while the smoke cells also exhibited oxidative stress levels 4.5-5x higher. Depending on how you want to interpret that, e-cigarettes are as much as eight times “safer” than traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Now, that’s not to say that e-cigarette juice is completely harmless — they found that when compared to clean air, the vapor produced viability and stress differentials similar to tobacco when compared to e-cigarettes. Again, anything inhaled into the lungs that isn’t fresh air is probably going to have some negative effects.
This seems to be a trend in the industry. First, e-cigarettes were shunned because no one was sure how safe they were. Someone performs a study finding that they’re probably safer, and then shortly thereafter a new study comes out with obscure reasons why they’re at least as harmful. In each case, it seems like the evidence in favor of e-cigarettes is clearer and more robust than anything disparaging them.
Tobacco companies certainly have a stake in the game, as their entire business currently depends on people continuing to smoke cigarettes. Many have jumped into the e-cigarette pool as well, but most smokers find the big-box offerings inferior to the “mods,” those inkpen looking things that are typically produced by small, independent manufacturers.
How this will play out is yet to be determined. One Reddit commenter suggested that tobacco companies could lobby for regulations that only they could afford to meet, and then piggyback off the technology created by the competitors they eliminated. That’s a pretty grim outlook, but that scenario is America in a nutshell, more or less.
Own The Conversation
Ask The Big Question: How long before people just accept that water vapor is inherently less dangerous than lighting something on fire and inhaling it?
Disrupt Your Feed: I give up. Will someone please just tell me the safest way to slowly kill myself?
Drop This Fact: The tobacco industry spent over $22 million on lobbyists in 2014.
Expand Your Expertise
- Evaluation of E-Cigarette Liquid Vapor and Mainstream Cigarette Smoke after Direct Exposure of Primary Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells [MDPI]