Researchers in Greece conducted a study on e-cigarettes which suggests that the use of the devices produces immediate changes in user’s airways. The small study, led by Dr. Constantine Vardavas from the Center for Global Tobacco of the Harvard School of Public Health, determined that e-cig users showed sign of airway constriction and of inflammation. The scientists infer that that the use of e-cigarettes has “immediate adverse physiologic effects after short term use,” thus raising concerns about the safety of the devices, although it’s unclear what the response to long-term use of e-cigs may be.
Both the FDA and scientists agree that further testing is required to determine if electronic cigarettes should be widely used by consumers. However, many e-cigarette advocates, including physicians, and organizations such as the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) argued that studies like the one conducted by Dr. Vardavas are just “amateur propaganda”. “So what?” asks ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Anything you inhale will affect your airways. Airway constriction is non-specific and has nothing to do with lung problems like emphysema or lung cancer, which are associated with smoking. You can’t assume from this data that there would be any long-term harm. Further, I wonder what tests these folks used to detect airway ‘inflammation,’ which is not reflected in the airway dynamics they measured.”
For the study, Dr. Vardavas and his colleagues provided 30 healthy smokers, e-cigarettes to puff on in order evaluate the effect of the vapor on their airways. Researchers found that after five minutes of use, smokers showed signs if airway constriction – as measured by several types of breathing tests – and of inflammation. It is not known whether that short-term response could translate into health effects in the long run, including lung diseases like emphysema. “More studies on the long-term effects are needed,” Vardavas said. However, “if e-cigarettes trigger airway effects after just a few minutes, that raises concerns about repeated use of the products over time. There are claims that e-cigarettes have no health effects,” Vardavas continued. “But that’s not correct.”
However, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health criticized the study. “It failed to compare the acute respiratory effects of electronic cigarette exposure with those of active smoking, which is the most important comparison that needs to be made.” ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom also said that, “the moment I saw that they didn’t run the same experiment using actual cigarettes, I knew this was pure (and not even especially well done) junk — an agenda-based report clumsily masquerading as science.”
Dr. Bloom explains that, “the study’s lead researcher recommends that, instead of trying e-cigarettes as a reduced-risk method to quit smoking, smokers should “stick to the methods that are known to work” like gums, patches and drugs. But the ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross criticized this recommendation. “He would have more accurately said, ‘stick to the methods that are known to not work,’ since those currently approved have a ‘success’ rate of only 5 to 10 percent,” said Dr. Ross. “It’s the old ‘quit or die,’ abstinence-only agenda.
Tags: electronic cigarettes