There's Bad News for People Who Think E-Cigarettes Are the Safer Alternative

Source: AP
Source: AP

There's some bad news for vapers.

While e-cigarettes are commonly touted as the safer alternative to smoking tobacco, new research suggests that vaping can damage lung tissue — whether or not it's nicotine-free.

The science: During a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology, scientists exposed laboratory mice and lung tissue samples to high doses of cigarette smoke extract, as well as the vapors from e-cigarette solution (in both regular and nicotine-free varieties).

The scientists found the nicotine in the cigarette extract and e-cigarette solution tests had "dose-dependent deleterious pulmonary effects," with effects including "acute lung inflammation," loss of function and slower growth among the cells lining the lungs' circulatory system. But they also found that nicotine-free vaping liquids exposed the cells to known carcinogens like acrolein, which damages those same lung-circulatory cells.

"This research reports that components found in commercially available e-cigarette solutions and vapors generated by heating them may cause lung inflammation," lead researcher Irina Petrache said in a statement on the American Physiological Society website.

Why you should care: While this one experiment doesn't definitively prove e-cigarettes are a looming health disaster, it is yet another indication that vaping may not be the healthy alternative so many had believed it to be.

Though the FDA officially thinks e-cigarettes are healthier than normal ones, the long-term effects of e-cigarette use remain largely unknown. Their theorized health impacts can also vary widely depending on factors like the quality and chemical composition of solution used and various high-heat settings, which can produce dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde.

With vaping now more common than cigarette smoking among young people, the rush to lionize e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative to cigarettes might turn out to be dangerous. E-cigs may be a good way to step down from regular tobacco consumption, but anyone considering taking up vaping should be aware there's probably no such thing as a consequence-free smoke yet.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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