E-CIGARETTES COULD be more harmful than people previously thought, a new study has warned.
According to research conducted by the University of Birmingham, e-cigs can harm cells in the lungs in a way similar to the damage done by cigarettes.
In particular, the vapour was found to lessen the effect of alveolar macrophages cells, which help remove dust particles, bacteria and allergens from the lungs.
Professor David Thickett, the lead author on the study, said:
"I don't believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes. But we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe."
The conclusions came after scientists tested the effect of condensed e-cigarette vapour on alveolar macrophages taken from lung tissue samples extracted from eight non-smokers.
Alarmingly, the condensate was found to be more harmful than standard e-cigarette fluid, with the effects worsening as the dose increased.
Despite the findings, the researchers were keen to stress the need for further research before they could conclusively assess the cancer risk of vaping.
"In terms of cancer-causing molecules in cigarette smoke, as opposed to cigarette vapour, there are certainly reduced numbers of carcinogens," Professor Thickett said.
"They are safer in terms of cancer risk, but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD, then that's something we need to know about."
Commenting on the findings, Professor John Britton, the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, said:
"The harsh truth is that smoking kills, and smokers who switch completely to electronic cigarettes are likely to substantially reduce the likelihood of premature death and disability."
The full study can be read in the latest issue of Thorax.