Vaping as bad for lungs as smoking, Queen's University study suggests
Research conducted in Belfast has claimed that e-cigarette vapour increases the potential for lung bacteria to cause harm and increase inflammation.
The results of a three-year study by Queen's University, published today in the Respiratory Research journal, show that the increase in lung inflammation is due to bacteria made more virulent by exposure to vapour.
Vaping has been suggested as a safer alternative to smoking, but there is limited evidence to support this claim and there are major concerns around its safety.
As rates of tobacco smoking have decreased, the number of people vaping has increased. Vapers are not always ex-smokers and there has been a rise in vaping among young people who have never smoked before.
According to the World Health Organisation, there has been a small but steady decrease in the estimated number of smokers globally, to just over one billion.
The number of vapers has, however, been increasing rapidly, from about seven million in 2011 to forty-one million in 2018.
Dr Deirdre Gilpin, a researcher and lecturer from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University and lead author of the research, said: "There is currently a knowledge gap about whether vaping is harmful or less harmful than smoking tobacco.
"Bacteria have long been associated with the development of lung diseases, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, where smoking plays a role.
"Our study is the first of its kind, and it aimed to compare the effect of cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapour on key lung bacteria."
The research compared the effect of exposure to cigarette smoke extract and e-cigarette vapour on levels of inflammation and the virulence of bacteria commonly associated with lung disease.
The team found that exposure to both cigarette smoke extract and e-cigarette vapour caused an increase in the potential of bacteria to cause harm in the lungs in a way which could lead to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and more.
The researchers also found that changes in bacteria exposed to e-cigarette vapour were similar to and in some cases exceeded those observed following bacterial exposure to cigarette smoke, suggesting that there is little difference between cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapour.
Dr Gilpin added: "This study shows us that vaping may carry the same risk as cigarette smoke in increasing the susceptibility to bacterial infection."