New research suggests that vaping could affect the performance of people’s lungs just as much as smoking cigarettes.
Generally, vaping is considered a healthy alternative to smoking tobacco as it does not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke.
But through an assessment and comparison of the effects of smoking e-cigarettes (vaping) and smoking cigarettes on lung function, researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport found both smokers and vapers showed a similar degree of obstruction of the airways in the lungs that may be caused by a swelling and contraction of smooth muscles in the walls of these airways.
This can affect people’s ability to efficiently take in air during everyday life or during exercise.
Research, published in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, compared 44 people in three groups of 18- to 55-year-old men and women who either vaped, smoked, or did not smoke or vape at all.
The participants were tested for levels of carboxyhaemoglobin – which forms in red blood cells upon contact with carbon monoxide – while spirometry was used to measure how much air each person could breathe out in one forced breath.
Participants respiratory pressure was also measured as indicators of the strength of inspiratory and expiratory muscles.
Mohammad Darabseh, PhD graduate at Manchester Metropolitan University who led the study, said: “As vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, the impact of vaping on health has not yet thoroughly been investigated. However, the few studies that have taken place indicate that e-cigarettes do have some detrimental effects on human health in general and on lung function in particular.
“Our research shows that while neither vaping nor smoking has a significant impact on the strength of respiratory muscles, both lead to a similar obstruction of the airways in both men and women.”
The risk factors attributed to cigarette smoking, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, are now well-known and this increase in awareness has seen many smokers looking for ways to quit.
This has contributed to the success of e-cigarettes which are viewed as one method to help quit smoking. The popularity of this method is reflected in the fact that 54% of e-cigarette users in the UK are ex-smokers.
Darabseh said: “E-cigarettes are viewed as a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking as they do not burn tobacco yet may deliver nicotine while containing fewer toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke. In the UK in particular, e-cigarettes are marketed as a product that can help people to quit smoking.
“Our findings show that these messages should be treated with caution.”