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Last month, Harvard University published a study linking e-cigarettes to lung disease (you can read their press release here). Apparently, in developers’ efforts to remove the combustion element of smoking, they neglected to consider the other potential health hazards posed by the use of this device (or, at the very least, those concerns were heavily overshadowed). Researchers have discovered that the danger lies in the chemical flavourings used in e-cigarettes – more specifically, Diacetyl, a flavorings chemical that, according to Harvard, can lead to severe respiratory disease. The chemical is found in more than 75 percent of flavoured electronic cigarettes, alongside two other related and potentially harmful compounds used to produce flavours that appeal to a variety of young people, such as cotton candy.

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Now, a new study has emerged from researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs. They are reporting results which suggest that e-cigarettes are “toxic to human airway cells, suppress immune defences and alter inflammation, while at the same time boosting boosting bacterial virulence.”

“This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign – at high doses it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening. We already knew that inhaling heated chemicals, including the e-liquid ingredients nicotine and propylene glycol, couldn’t possibly be good for you. This work confirms that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor daily leads to changes in the inflammatory milieu inside the airways.”  – Senior author Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, (source)

Here are the key messages from their study, which was published a couple of days ago in the Journal of Molecular Medicineare summed up as follows:

  • Acute exposure to e-cigarette vapor (EV) is cytotoxic to airway cells in vitro
  • Acute exposure to EV decreases macrophage and neutrophil antimicrobial function
  • Inhalation of EV alters immunomodulating cytokines in the airways of mice
  • Inhalation of EV leads to increased markers of inflammation in BAL and serum
  • Staphylococcus aureus become more virulent when exposed to EV

These findings were actually reported a couple of years ago, but now, the same results are holding up in mice.

“Inflammatory markers — signs of full-body inflammation — in the airways and blood of mice that inhaled e-cigarette vapors for one hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks were elevated by 10 percent compared to unexposed mice. . . . Some of the changes we have found in mice are also found in the airways and blood of conventional cigarette smokers, while others are found in humans with cancer or inflammatory lung diseases.” (source)

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The researchers did mention that although they cannot provide a link to a specific disease, what was found in the lab regarding reports of acute toxicities is enough to have them believing that “they will cause disease in the end.” The study also shows how e-cigarette vapor extract that was exposed to bacteria was more harmful in a mouse model of pneumonia.

Are They Still A Better Option Than Smoking? Does A ‘Healthy’ Alternative Exist? 

Decades ago when people first started to smoke it was presumed safe, and even encouraged by doctors as a means to relieve stress. Many people are claiming that these e-cigarette studies are being funded by big tobacco companies, and it’s a valid concern. Some of them may very well be, but we should also consider the fact that the e-cigarette industry has funded studies which ruled that vaping is completely safe.

When it comes to this particular study, it was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Biomedical Research Division. We received an email from the author after we inquired about the funding.

“My personal bias is that I want to make sure that vaping e-cigarettes is safe for my patients, and if it isn’t, to be able to counsel them appropriately about risks and benefits of smoking cigarettes vs. vaping e-cigarettes. I truly hope that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than cigarettes! And so far, it looks like that could be possible.”

It is difficult to say whether they are a better option or if they do actually help people quit smoking. The truth is, both could be bad, and perhaps e-cigarettes are a better alternative. But perhaps it’s really just choosing against the worst of two evils. Even if e-cigarettes are a safer alternative, there is nothing wrong with outlining the dangers associated with them. Furthermore, I do know that there are other, natural methods that can be used to quit smoking. is a great place to start your research, and it’s worth the effort – while many things can be conquered with the application of a little willpower, sometimes kicking substances that your brain craves requires more than just willpower, and a little asistance. You can check out this article below for starters; I hope it helps if you are trying to quit:

9 Natural Ways To Quit Smoking

To see what happens to your body when you quit smoking, click HERE.

I’d also like to mention that every time a study like this comes out and animals have been used to obtain the results, I am extremely conflicted about the fact that I am presenting it. It breaks my heart to even think about it. There are potential alternatives to this form of research and they’ve been presented to government agencies. They involve, rather than testing on animals in the first tier, the use of physical and chemical data, existing toxicological data, and validated in vitro tests and computational models. But this is a topic for another article. You can read more about non-animal methods of testing HERE.


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