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Researchers raise concerns over eCig safety

26 May 2016

Study shows lung inflammation risks associated with long-term 'vaping'

Thousands of electronic cigarette users are risking dangerous levels of lung inflammation, the first study of its kind has revealed.

Dr Andrew Higham, from the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, says the vapour which e-smokers inhale contains formaldehyde and acrolein – similar to traditional cigarettes – which could be harmful if taken over the long term.

The research will fuel the debate on the safety of e-Cigarettes: for example, the Welsh Government has dropped a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces.

There are an estimated 3 million users of electronic cigarettes in the UK. E-Cigarettes are often used to avoid the unwanted effects of traditional cigarettes, such as causing pulmonary inflammation.

The research, published in the open access journal Respiratory Research, examined the effect of e-cig exposure on human white blood cells taken from ten non-smokers.

The research was funded by the North West Lung Centre, which is based at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (UHSM). The research was conducted at UHSM’s Wythenshawe hospital, and the University's Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, where three brands of e-Cigarette were investigated.

The raised activity of neutrophils in response to e-Cigarette exposure is similar to that observed in the presence of traditional cigarettes and is a characteristic of the debilitating lung condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an illness found in traditional smokers.

Dr Higham said: “Our research shows quite clearly that there are risks associated with long-term use of these devices in terms of pulmonary inflammation. There has been a lot of public discussion on e-Cigarettes. But we think that the public needs to be aware of the potential harm these devices may cause which will empower users to make informed decisions.”