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Everything is in the smoke: about the “war” around vaping

With the gradual tightening of anti-tobacco legislation in most developed countries, smokers and tobacco companies are increasingly reorienting themselves to electronic means of nicotine delivery and tobacco heating. Indicator.Ru figured out what disputes surround the new technology, what health effects its use may have, and how electronic cigarettes are still better than usual.
Since the first electronic cigarettes appeared on sale in China in 2004, their share in the market of smoking products has been increasing quite rapidly from year to year. According to data for 2018, more than 40 million people are regular users of such devices. Moreover, if the number of smokers on the planet began to decline gradually (now there are just over a billion), the number of vapers continues to grow. The largest markets for electronic cigarettes today in the United States and Great Britain, followed by Germany, France and China, and the total global market is estimated at an impressive $ 20 billion.

The operation of all vaping devices is based on the same principle: with the help of a heating element operating on a battery, a special liquid is converted into steam (aerosol), intended for inhalation. Therefore, the process of using such a device is usually called “vaping” from the English. vape (“steam”). The vapor produced by the device looks like tobacco smoke, and the devices themselves can often be in the form of a cigarette, cigar or smoking pipe, which served as the basis for the popular name “electronic cigarette”. However, not all devices are similar in shape to a cigarette, and the liquid in them can be either nicotine-containing or nicotine-free. In addition, distinguish between open and closed devices for vaping: in the first case, the user can add fluid on his own, in the second case, the container with the liquid itself must be replaced.

Health effects

Even the greatest skeptics admit that, apparently, vaping devices are still not as harmful to health as smoking tobacco. The main advantage of electronic cigarettes is that in their pair there are no or almost none of such products of tobacco burning, such as resins, heavy metals and other substances that are carcinogens and pose the greatest danger to human health. Short-term and medium-term studies do not show serious negative health effects that could be associated with the use of electronic cigarettes, and the most common complaint of vapers is dryness and irritation in the mouth and throat. At the same time, one should not forget that the long-term health effects of vaping are still not well studied.

In addition, unlike ordinary cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not emit smoke into the atmosphere that would bypass the lungs of the vaper. This means that electronic devices are almost completely free of the potential health risks of the “passive smokers” surrounding them as a result of tobacco smoking. The British Department of Health, for example, believes that “the health risks of nearby people from a vapor of electronic cigarettes are extremely low,” and emphasizes in its recommendations that the use of electronic cigarettes in public places should in no way be equated with smoking and should be regulated in a similar way. .

The medicine
On the other hand, the inhalation of vapors produced by electronic cigarettes, in any case, causes psychological and physiological addiction due to the presence of nicotine in them. Nicotine itself is much less dangerous than the products of tobacco burning, however, dependence on it can cause cardiovascular and bronchopulmonary diseases, as it enters the body along with harmful substances. Speaking of toxicity: this summer in the US, about 500 vapers were hospitalized due to severe lung damage, and several people died. For a long time, scientists could not find anything in common between these cases – people were harmed by electronic cigarettes with and without nicotine, of different brands and with liquids of different compositions. The only significant common ingredient was vitamin E, found in various vegetable oils.

The authors of a recent study suggested a mechanism by which other components could be harmful – plant glycerin and propylene glycol. They play the role of solvents in the composition of vaping fluid, so that they could thin the surfactant (“pulmonary lubricant”), because of which it loses its protective properties and interferes with macrophages – the immune cells that must process it. Because of this, macrophages accumulate fat-like substances in themselves, swell and resist infections worse. This is what experiments on mice show – and people, as we know, are sometimes a different matter.

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