A new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on September 5th and carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham, suggests that even moderate exposure to e-cigarettes suppresses cell activity. More precisely, our frontline immune cells or neutrophils stop working in a normal way which in the long term could cause lung damage. Whether or not the e-cigarette smoke contained nicotine did not change the outcome.
“We found that after short, low-level exposure to e-cigarette vapour, the cells remain alive but can no longer move as effectively and are unable to carry out their normal protective functions. Interestingly, vapour from e-liquids which did not contain nicotine also had the same negative effects as vapour from e-liquids which did contain nicotine”, Dr Aaron Scott, Associate Professor in Respiratory Science at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the study said.
E-cigarettes are a proven, lower harm, tool to help smokers quit smoking but our data adds to current evidence that e-cigarettes are not harmless and highlights the need for funding longer-term studies in vapers.Dr Aaron Scott, Associate Professor in Respiratory Science at the University of Birmingham
To be able to come to such conclusions, the researchers took blood samples from healthy adults who had never smoked or vaped. That blood was then exposed to the smoke of 40 puffs of unflavoured vape, which the study states to be a very moderate daily exposure. Half of them were exposed to nicotine-free e-cigarettes, half of them to e-cigarette smoke containing nicotine. According to the scientists, a build-up of a microfilament within the cells prevents them from moving around and re-arranging themselves, which limits their normal function.
“In health, neutrophils normally protect the lungs by moving from the blood to the site of possible harm before using a number of protective functions to protect the lung. The observed impact that e-cigarette vapour had on their mobility is therefore of significant concern, and if this were to happen in the body would make those who regularly use e-cigarettes at greater risk of respiratory diseases”, David Thickett, Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the paper said.