It’s no secret that smoking is a nasty habit that affects the health of millions of people. Ironically, ex-smokers describe how much they miss that ‘itchy’ feeling smoking provided, hitting the back of the throat.

The nature of smoking has driven scientists to develop products such as e-cigarettes which have become a ‘healthier’ alternative to smoking, whilst satisfying the need for nicotine. However, vaping has also attracted negative publicity from those who believe anything inhaled other than oxygen can’t be good for you. This had led research corporations to investigate the effects of smoking vs. vaping.

Research conducted by British American Tobacco and MatTek has found that a human respiratory tissue test has revealed that e-cigarette vapour produces similar results as air and is therefore considered non-threatening to our health. Vapour taken from two different varieties of e-cigarettes has shown no cytotoxic impact on human airways. Six hours of exposure to cigarette smoke is significantly worse for our health as it results in near-complete cell death, compared to no visible affect when vaping.

Scientific tests conducted by the two organisations used a unique combination to investigate the potential adverse effects of e-cigarette vapour on our airway tissue. Dr. Marina Murphy, a spokesperson for both corporations has stated:

‘By employing a combination of a smoking robot and a lab-based test using respiratory tissue, it was impossible to demonstrate the ability to induce and measure aerosol irritancy and to show that the different e-cigarette aerosols used in this study have no cytotoxic effect on human airway tissue.’

Until recently, no aerosol studies into e-cigarette vapour has been conducted. These findings could help develop products which can help smokers kick the habit, whilst ensuring their health is not compromised.

The research used a commercially available 3D model of respiratory epithelial tissue and the popular VITROCELL smoking robot, an aerosol exposure system to assess the irritant potential of e-cigarette vapour from two available e-cigarettes. The results illustrated that despite hours of aggressive and continuous exposure, vapour from an e-cigarette was too similar to that of air.

The model used for the airway tissue is called EpiAirway and comprises human tracheal/bronchial epithelial cells that have been cultured to form differentiated layers resembling epithelial tissue of the respiratory tract. The VITROCELL system mimics the exposure when humans inhale. It was first tested against the biological system with known irritants applied in liquid form. They then exposed EpiAirway tissues to cigarette smoke or aerosol generated from the two varieties of e-cigarettes for six hours.

The results had shown reduced cell viability to 12% after six hours. Neither of the e-cigarettes aerosol showed a significant decrease in cell viability. Despite six hours of exposure, the results echoed that of air and nothing aggressive to our bodies.

Without a doubt vaping has become a more acceptable alternative to smoking as more and more people are switching to e-cigarettes and vaping pens to quit smoking. This research has provided a platform for future tests to be conducted against the effects of vaping.

For the time being, with cigarette sales hit an all-time low, it is without surprise that vaping is fast becoming a world phenomenon.

Test by British American Tobacco reveals e-cigarette vapour is similar to air

Credit: British American Tobacco

Chris Polenski
Chris Polenski