The ERS International Congress Conference, is a yearly event where the world’s leading experts on respiratory conditions meet to present and discuss the latest research ,findings and developments on topics such as asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and smoking.
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This year’s conference is currently taking place in Milan Italy and two public health experts, Dr Tim Chico and Prof. Peter Hajek, are sharing their views on the following three quotes :
“-Acute effects of active e-cigarette inhalation on arterial stiffness
-Highest prevalence of respiratory symptoms among smokers who also use e-cigarettes
-Evaluation of respiratory irritants among the most popular e-cigarette refill liquids across 9 European countries”
“Electronic cigarettes are certain to have some health effects, and it is very important that non-smokers do not start using them erroneously thinking that they are harmless. However, the key question is whether they are as harmful as conventional cigarettes, and this seems very unlikely, particularly if they are used as a bridge to quitting all cigarettes completely,” he said, adding, “Although it is important to understand the effects of electronic cigarettes, this should not detract from the fact that smoking conventional cigarettes reduces life expectancy by ten years and causes chronic diseases that devastate quality of life.”
Levels of risky compounds found in e-liquids are no cause for alarm
Prof. Peter Hajek, who is the director at the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), said, “All three findings are likely to be presented as generating concerns about vaping, but none provides a cause for alarm.”
He thinks that the highlighted respiratory symptoms are higher in double users, as these tend to be heavy smokers who are struggling to quit, hence tend to use both products. “The most likely explanation is that heavier smokers are more likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms, and are also more likely to try to quit but fail to stop smoking completely. This could lead to heavy smokers with respiratory symptoms ending up in the dual users group,” he said.
In line with what studies measuring dangerous substances in e-liquids have indicated, Hajek thinks that it is the amounts people are exposed to that matter. “It is the dose that makes the poison. No information is provided on whether these chemicals are inhaled at levels that can cause harm, or how these levels compare with levels inhaled by smokers. Smokers who switch to vaping report significant improvements, e.g. in asthma, which suggests that such a switch reduces respiratory irritation and is beneficial for lung health.”
Improved lung function observed in smokers who switch to vaping
On the topic of arterial stiffness caused by nicotine, Hayek pointed out that there are other things that have the same effect on the body, and are considered irrelevant in terms of health risks. “This is a well-known stimulant effect of nicotine that has little relevance for health. Drinking coffee has the same effect, only greater and longer lasting (as does watching a dramatic football match).”
A study conducted last year by Prof. Hayek himself and published in the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, which focused on a number of smokers who had switched to vaping, found that the greater number of the study participants had experienced a decrease in respiratory infections.