Many consumers turn to vaping because they think that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. But a new study finds that vapers have greater lung inflammation than cigarette smokers and non-smokers.
The study, published online in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, is the first to provide evidence that vaping e-liquids with e-cigarettes creates a unique inflammatory response in the lungs that is different from cigarette smoking.
E-cigarette usage has increased dramatically in the past several years, particularly among adolescents and young adults. While many assume that e-cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes, they can cause pulmonary inflammation and increase the risk of lung disease. In addition, their long-term safety has not been rigorously evaluated.
“Having these findings provides patients with additional evidence about the potentially harmful effects of e-cigarette use on the lungs,” said Reagan Wetherill, PhD, the study’s lead author and faculty member at the the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“Our work advances what is currently known about the impacts of e-cigarette use on respiratory health and provides a better understanding of harm and harm reduction associated with e-cigarette use relative to cigarette smoking.” Wetherill said.
Study used a radiotracer
This is the first PET study to use a novel radiotracer to compare lung inflammation between cigarette and e-cigarette users.
Study participants were divided into three age- and sex-matched groups: five e-cigarette users, five cigarette smokers, and five never-smoked/vaped controls. The PET study was performed to quantify and compare lung inflammation.
E-cigarette users showed greater pulmonary inflammation than cigarette smokers and never-smoked/vaped controls. A positive association between pulmonary and peripheral measures of inflammation was also found, suggesting that e-cigarette use may increase pulmonary inflammation.
This study - “Molecular Imaging of Pulmonary Inflammation in Electronic and Combustible Cigarette Users: A Pilot Study” - is available online.