I found our lecture discussion of the increased prevalence of vaping and its possibly awful health effects very intriguing. I remembered reading a controversial article about vaping causing impairment of various aspects of our immune response, and wanted to know if it was actually true. People naturally think there’s no problem with vaping, because there is no inhalation of smoke involved, but is that really the whole story?
Despite the lack of smoke and the toxins associated with combustion, E-cigarrette vapor still produces significant effects on the lungs, including inflammation and damage of vital proteins. Though the amount of toxic chemicals in the vapor is over a hundred times less than found in normal cigarettes, the toxins still contain large amounts of free radicals that damage cells, harm DNA, and can be cancer-causing. Some of the potentially toxic chemicals revealed upon analysis of the vapor include formaldehyde, nitrosamines, metals, carbonyls, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The levels of these compounds always increase after vaporization, due to heat and/or the voltage from the vaporizer.
In a study published a few months ago, several groups of mice were extensively tested with exposure to E-cigarrette vapor. They were separated into two groups, one exposed to fresh air for two weeks, and the other exposed to E-cigarrette vapor for the time period. Each group was then separated into two subgroups; one was then exposed to influenza A and the other exposed to Streptococcus pneumoniae (the bacterium that causes pneumonia). Not only did the mice exposed to the vapor experience much more severe infections, but they also revealed physiological changes from the vapor exposure. More specifically, the ability of the mice to rid their lungs of the harmful bacterium was immensely impaired, due to reduced phagocytic capability by macrophages in the alveoli. The main impairment involved with the viral infections was the reduction in several crucial cytokines for immune response, along with the inhibition of pulmonary T-cells that are also crucial to fighting viral infections.
Not surprisingly, this study was criticized by Tom Pruen, the chief scientific officer for the Electronic Cigarette Trade Industry Association. He claimed that the doses given to the mice didn’t make sense, because they were doses fit for humans. Obviously there are economic motives at play here, but it still does seem that the effects of E-cigarrette vapor on the human immune system remain relatively uncertain.
Two interesting articles from secondary sources are linked below:
One of the main papers that is the source of a lot of the controversy between E-cigarrete companies and health professionals is linked below.