Studies in humans and animals have found that using e-cigarettes can contribute to inflammatory changes in the heart, brain, colon, and lungs. A new study of mice published in the journal eLife expanded on these previous findings (at least in mice), noted that e-cigarette use could have an effect on how organs respond to infections including the coronavirus, and analyzed how different e-cigarette flavors may play a role.
Over 12 million adults in the United States use e-cigarettes, battery-operated devices used as a smokeless tobacco option. The highest rates of use are among individuals ages 18-24.
In 2021, over 2 million middle and high school students vaped at least once. Nearly 85% of these people used flavored e-cigarettes.
Earlier studies on short-term vape use involving lower nicotine concentrations have shown inflammatory changes within the lungs, brain, and heart.
The current study, appearing in the journal eLife, uncovers more effects of e-cigarette aerosol exposure on different organs in mice. It also assesses how specific e-cigarette flavors contribute to such effects.
The Medical News Today article points out:
It’s important to note that the current study involves small rodents, not humans. However, Dr. Crotty Alexander argued:
“I think we can get enough data from our animal models that it would give enough insight [to inform] parents and regulators and healthcare practitioners.“
Her team hopes to impact public health by pinpointing the most toxic components in vaping devices. Ideally, manufacturers “would design their devices and their liquids in a safer way” with that information.
Ethical issues limit the feasibility of adolescent human studies, but Dr. Crotty Alexander sees a viable option:
“[…]By using nonhuman primates, [in] very small numbers, exposing them at the same ages that would correlate to a child in middle school or high schooler, we can get information about what e-cigarette aerosol use is doing in terms of lung development and [whether it is] increasing or changing the risk of developing pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Kesari said that vaping and being exposed to tobacco regularly could cause chronic long-term health problems that compound over time.
He noted that the low level of inflammation caused by e-cigarettes in various tissues “may not be clinically apparent as a problem on a day-to-day basis but could help explain the deleterious effects of nicotine products in the long run.”
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