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New research shows ‘no deterioration in lung health’ after 3.5 years of vaping

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Scientists from the University of California-Los Angeles have determined that vaping poses no significant threats to lung and respiratory systems after 3.5 years of vaping. Led by Dr. Riccardo Polosa from the University of Catalina in Italy who collaborated with the American team, the researchers monitored a small group of vapers while evaluating numerous biomarkers involving respiratory, circulatory, pulmonary, and coronary systems. The findings represent one of the first long-term vaping studies of its kind to date.

Vaping is still a relatively new technology, so finding a group of volunteers to participate in the program proved challenging. Over the multi-year study, several dropped out. Others were disqualified or rejected for not following the study’s very strict protocols. However, by the end of the 3.5 years, nine vapers remained. Six of the nine were still vaping nicotine-infused e-liquids at the end of the project.

Overview of the California/Italy vaping study

To qualify for the research project, all participants had to be qualified as both never smokers and never vapers. This prerequisite, in itself, is truly groundbreaking as most research studies in this field tend to focus on smokers-turned-vapers. By focusing on only individuals with no previous histories of tobacco use, the researchers hoped to find definitive scientific evidence that vaping does not deteriorate lung health. They focused on very specific biomarkers including the following.

  • Respiratory and lung functions, via high-resolution HRCT scans
  • Carbon monoxide quantities found exhaled breath
  • Nitric acid quantities found in exhaled breath
  • Possible lung deterioration possibly caused by:
  • oChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • oLipoid Pneumonia
  • oBronchiolitis Obliterans (“Popcorn Lung”)
  • oAnd other diseases of the lungs and respiratory systems
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure (BP)
  • Body weight

The years-long vaping study is entitled Health impact of E-cigarettes: a prospective 3.5-year study of regular daily users who have never smoked and is published in the medical journal Nature. While the evidence shows vaping is does not negatively affect the lung functions of vaping to any significant degree, the scientists also acknowledge that further research is needed due to the small sample group of participants. They also warn against the use of the chemical diacetyl in the manufacturing of e-liquids, to which the American vaping industry has already largely self-regulated against its use.

“In a small sample of young-adult never-smoking, daily EC users who were carefully followed for approximately 3½ years, we found no decrements in spirometric indices, development of respiratory symptoms, changes in markers of lung inflammation in exhaled air or findings of early lung damage on HRCT, when compared with a carefully matched group of never-smoking non-EC users. Even the heaviest EC users failed to exhibit any evidence of emerging lung injury as reflected in these physiologic, clinical or inflammatory measures. Moreover, no changes were noted in blood pressure or heart rate. Since the EC users who we studied were never smokers, potential confounding by inhalation of combustion products of tobacco were obviated.”

“Flavorings in the e-liquid are generally considered safe to eat, but have largely unknown effects on the lung when heated and inhaled. Chronic exposure to high levels of diacetyl - a flavoring substance commonly used in the food industry for its appealing buttery aroma - in microwave popcorn workers has been shown to be associated with cases of bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung).”

The results of the Polosa study are also supported by recent research out of the UK which identifies vaping as 96 percent less toxic than smoking. The UK study funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine via the Health Day website followed a group of 181 current and former smokers who had recently transitioned to vaping. 

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