Study: Are e-cigarettes definitely safe?
Quitting smoking is no easy task as anyone who enjoys nicotine can tell you. E-cigarettes that are widely sold for smoking cessation have remained controversial with regards to their safety. A new European study shows immediate lung harm after 10-minutes of using the cigarette alternative.
The newest study, presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Vienna on September 2, 2012 is worth noting if you’re trying to quit smoking and want to ensure your lungs don’t suffer continued harm from nicotine vapors in e-cigarettes.
For their study, researchers from the University of Athens in Greece measured lung function in healthy people and smokers with and without known lung problems.
Eight people were enrolled who never smoked and 24 smokers. Eleven had normal lung function and 13 had either COPD – chronic obstructive lung disease – or asthma.
After using e-cigarettes for 10 minutes the researchers used a variety of tests to measure airway resistance including spirometry.
In the non-smoking group airway resistance increased immediately from a mean average of 182% to 206%; in smoker airway resistance increased on average from of 176% to 220%. The effect lasted for 10 minutes.
The e-cigarette didn’t have any effect on airway resistance for participants with known lung disease.
Professor Christina Gratziou, one of the authors and Chair of the ERS Tobacco Control Committee, said in a press release, "We do not yet know whether unapproved nicotine delivery products, such as e-cigarettes, are safer than normal cigarettes, despite marketing claims that they are less harmful. This research helps us to understand how these products could be potentially harmful.”
Gratziou does say there isn’t any way to know yet whether the effect of e-cigarettes on airway resistance is lasting and that more research is needed.
Until then, the European committee is recommending against the use of e-cigarettes and they suggest other methods to stop smoking that are shown to be safe and based on clinical evidence.
ERS smoking cessation guidelines, published September 3, 2012 include the following:
• Ask your doctor if prescription medication to help with smoking cessation is safe for you. The ERS encourages use of medicines that can help reduce nicotine cravings unless there are contraindications.
• Consider nicotine replacement therapy as a first-line treatment and medication such as bupropion SR and varenicline (Chantix) that are shown to help.
• Gum, patches, inhalers, nasal spray, lozenges and sublingual tablet are shown to be equally effective.
• They also suggest heavy smokers may need to use more than one form of therapy to stop smoking – for instance bupropion SR combine with nicotine patches. They also note there is no evidence that replacing nicotine with over-the-counter products, combined with varenicline is helpful.
• Smokers with heart disease, but stable, can safely use nicotine replacement therapy in addition to bupropion SR. Varenicline could have “an additional therapeutic effect in these groups.”
• Nortriptyline is suggested as a second-line medication to treat dependency on tobacco.
• Follow-up visits are encouraged and linked to long-term success with quitting smoking.
The new study suggests e-cigarettes may not be safe and could cause harm to the lungs even though they are heavily marketed as a safe tobacco alternative.
European Respiratory Society
September 2, 2012
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