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Study Suggests Link Between E-Cigarettes, Respiratory Infections

Study Suggests Link Between E-Cigarettes, Respiratory Infections | Healthcare and Technology news |

Vapor from electronic cigarettes may increase young people's risk of respiratory infections, whether or not it contains nicotine, a new laboratory study has found.

Lung tissue samples from deceased children appeared to suffer damage when exposed to e-cigarette vapor in the laboratory, researchers reported in a recent issue of the journal PLOS One.

The vapor triggered a strong immune response in epithelial cells, which are cells that line the inside of the lung and protect the organ from harm, said lead author Dr. Qun Wu, a lung disease researcher at National Jewish Health in Denver.

Once exposed to e-cigarette vapor, these cells also became more susceptible to infection by rhinovirus, the virus that's the predominant cause of the common cold, the researchers found.

"Epithelial cells are the first line of defense in our airways," Wu said. "They protect our bodies from anything dangerous we might inhale. Even without nicotine, this liquid can hurt your epithelial defense system and you will be more likely to get sick."

The new report comes amid a surge in the popularity of e-cigarettes, which are being promoted by manufacturers as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes and a possible smoking-cessation aid.

Nearly 1.8 million children and teens in the United States had tried e-cigarettes by 2012, the study authors said in background information. Less than 2 percent of American adults had tried e-cigarettes in 2010, but by last year the number had topped 40 million, an increase of 620 percent.

For the study, researchers obtained respiratory system tissue from children aged 8 to 10 who had passed away and donated their organs to medical science. Researchers specifically looked for tissue from young donors because they wanted to focus on the effects of e-cigarettes on kids, Wu said.

The human cells were placed in a sterile container at one end of a machine, with an e-cigarette at the other end. The machine applied suction to the e-cigarette to simulate the act of using the device, with the vapors produced by that suction traveling through tubes to the container holding the human cells.

The vapor spurred the release of IL-6, a signaling protein that promotes inflammation and an immune system response. This occurred whether or not the vapor contained nicotine, although nicotine appeared to slightly enhance the release of IL-6, the researchers said.

The exposed lung tissue also appeared more susceptible to the common cold virus, developing higher amounts of virus compared to healthy cells that had not been exposed to the vapor, the investigators found.

In follow-up testing, lab mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor also appeared more likely to come down with a cold from rhinovirus, compared with unexposed mice.

The American Vaping Association, an industry group representing e-cigarette makers, said the study findings were limited because the tests involved cells in a laboratory, not actual people using e-cigarettes. The tests also failed to compare the effects of the vapor to other inhalants, the group said.

"Many in public health agree that the risks of vaping must always be considered in the context of the risks of cigarette smoking and traditional stop-smoking therapies," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.

"Unlike past studies, this study provides the reader with no data to compare the liquid results to. What would happen if these same cells were exposed to combustible cigarettes, nicotine gum, or the smoking cessation drug varenicline [Chantix]? That is an important -- and unanswered -- question that the authors don't appear to have great interest in answering," Conley said.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association, agreed that people should be cautious in drawing conclusions based on lab tests using cell cultures.

At the same time, Edelman said the study findings are "interesting and provocative," and fit in with prior research on the effects of e-cigarette use.

"We already know that if you have someone smoke an e-cigarette and then test them, they show airway inflammation," Edelman said. "The susceptibility to viral infection is brand new and interesting."

On Thursday, two groups representing cancer researchers and specialists said the potential health hazards of e-cigarettes remain unclear, and more regulation on their use is needed.

The American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology together issued a list of recommendations aimed at bringing e-cigarette regulations more in line with those of traditional cigarettes.

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Teens Use E-Cigarettes More Than Cigarettes

Teens Use E-Cigarettes More Than Cigarettes | Healthcare and Technology news |

The use of electronic cigarettes by American teenshas surpassed their use of traditional cigarettes, according to a federal government study.

Among Grade 8 students, nearly nine percent said they'd used an e-cigarette in the last month, while four percent smoked traditional cigarettes. The rates were 16 percent and seven percent among 10th-graders and 17 percent and 14 percent among high school seniors, the Associated Press reported.

The National Institutes of Health survey of more than 41,000 students also found that between four and seven percent of teens who tried e-cigarettes had never smoked a traditional cigarette.

"I worry that the tremendous progress that we've made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes," survey leader Lloyd Johnston, a University of Michigan professor, told the AP.

In 2013, an estimated 4.5 percent of high school students had tried e-cigarettes during the previous month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's three times higher than in 2011.

While the Food and Drug Administration has proposed prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes to minors, there is no timetable for when such a ban might take effect, the AP reported.

The survey also looked at drug use and found that marijuana use appeared to level off after recent increases. Past-month use of marijuana was reported by 6.5 percent of eighth-graders, 17 percent of 10th-graders, and 21 percent of 12th-graders. Nearly six percent of 12th-graders reported daily use of marijuana.

The number of high school seniors trying synthetic marijuana fell to six percent this year, from eight percent last year and 11 percent in 2012, the AP reported.

Six percent of 12th-graders said they abused prescription painkillers this year, compared with 9.5 percent in 2004. Nearly 20 percent of high school seniors reported binge drinking this year, down from 25 percent in 2009.

Talitha Cannon's curator insight, February 17, 2015 10:22 PM

WOAH! That is crazy. Holy heck