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Vaping study shows no negative health effects to lung surfactant

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Recent surveys show that an overwhelming number of Americans mistakenly believe that vaping is just as hazardous to one’s health as smoking. As misinformation about vaping spreads across social media like wildfire, a new study out of Ohio University shows that vaping does not damage the lung surfactant to any measurable degree. Smoking, on the other hand, has immediate adverse effects.

Lung surfactant is a thin, mucus-like substance that lines the insides of the lungs and absorbs the surface tension cause by the alveolar fluid. Scientists sometimes refer to it as pulmonary surfactant, too. Without this gooey material, breathing would be very painful if not excruciating. Using calf lungs as a substitute, the researchers from Ohio University came to some rather remarkable conclusions.

Overview of the Ohio University vaping study

Led by co-author Dr. Rebecca J. Przybyla, the study entitled Electronic cigarette vapor alters the lateral structure but not tensiometric properties of calf lung surfactant is readily available for review via BMC Respiratory Research. After slathering some calf lungs with healthy human lung surfactant, the researchers then exposed them to both the second-hand smoke from tobacco cigarettes and the vapor from electronic vaping devices.

All experimentation occurred in separate and environmentally control environments. What the scientists discovered is that vaping poses no health risks to pulmonary surfactant while the smoke from the equivalent of a single cigarette produces immediate and negative consequences.

“E-cigarette vapor regardless of the dose and flavoring of the e-liquid did not affect surfactant interfacial properties. In contrast, smoke from conventional cigarettes had a drastic, dose-dependent effect on Infasurf®interfacial properties reducing the maximum surface pressure from 65.1 ± 0.2 mN/m to 46.1 ± 1.3 mN/m at the highest dose. Cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor both altered surfactant microstructure resulting in an increase in the area of lipid multilayers. Studies with individual smoke components revealed that tar was the smoke component most disruptive to surfactant function.”

The study is important for another reason, too. Aside from generic e-liquid vapor, the scientists also experimented with various brands of vape juice manufactured with a variety of flavorings. The findings were nearly identical in showing that neither vaping nor vaping flavorings have any adverse effects on human lung surfactant, somewhat rebuking current claims by the anti-vaping community that flavored e-liquids should be banned. 

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