E-cigarettes may inflame lungs as much as cigarettes do

Indicator of lung inflammation changes as much after ‘vaping’ as after smoking

Using electronic cigarettes has the same short-term effects on the lungs as smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes, a study finds. Both products triggered sharp reductions in exhaled nitric oxide among 25 volunteers. Toxicologists view drops in the gas as a marker of inflammation that signals airway damage.

After ‘vaping,’ or inhaling e-cigarettes’ vapors, volunteers exhaled 2.2 to 3.2 parts per billion less nitric oxide than when exhaling normally. The bigger drop came after volunteers vaped a nicotine-free fluid. Smoking regular cigarettes dropped nitric oxide values by 2.8 parts per billion. An earlier study found a similar trend but couldn’t rule out nicotine as the culprit in the larger drop.

The research team also used machines to smoke or vape the three products and then measured the resulting aerosol particles. E-cigarette vapors contained about 65 percent more particles than did tobacco smoke.

Follow-up analyses projected that cigarettes would have deposited the fewest aerosols per puff in the lung’s tiniest, most critical airways, and nicotine-laced e-cigarettes the most.

Sara Marini and her coworkers at the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio in Italy, report the findingsin the July 1 Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated June 24, 2014, to correct the percent difference in aerosol particles between e-cigarette vapors and tobacco smoke.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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