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E-cigarettes are just as likely to give you a sickly smoker’s cough

E-cigarettes are just as likely to give you a sickly smoker’s cough: Study finds NICOTINE – not tobacco – strips lungs of their ability to fight off illness

  • Researchers found nicotine hampers the airways’ ability to clear mucus, making them weak 
  • Mucus-clearing is key to keep the lungs strong to fend off disease
  • E-cigarettes have more nicotine in them per session than one cigarette 
  • This mucus build-up happens faster in younger e-cigarette users, the study said 

E-cigarettes are just as likely as cigarettes to give you a ‘smoker’s cough’ and leave you susceptible to illness, researchers warn.

Even without tobacco, the nicotine in products like Juuls prevents the lungs from cleaning out mucus, according to a new study analyzing nicotine’s impacts on human cells and in sheep.

What’s more, there is more nicotine per vaping session than there is in a cigarette, and while tobacco carries the drug quickly into the bloodstream, vapor does not, leaving more nicotine in the lungs. 

The researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that, as a result, e-cigarette users gradually experience a build-up of phlegm, making them more susceptible to illness, increasing the risk of a cough, and pave the way to asthma or chronic bronchitis.

And that process is faster in younger e-cigarette users, they found.  

Nicotine slows down the rate at which airways can clear mucus, dehydrates airway fluid, and makes mucus more sticky. As a result, the bronchi, which lead to the lungs, are weaker and lesser prepared to fend off infections or bugs (file image)

The study, published today, adds to the growing body of evidence that vaping nicotine may not be as harmless as it was pitched to be. 

‘This study grew out of our team’s research on the influence of tobacco smoke on mucus clearance from the airways,’ said senior author Matthias Salathe, MD, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

‘The question was whether vape containing nicotine had negative effects on the ability to clear secretions from the airways similar to tobacco smoke. ‘ 

‘Mucociliary dysfunction’ – or, a stubborn build-up of mucus – is the hallmark of most lung diseases.

It is one of the most uncomfortable aspects of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis, causing shortness of breath, coughs, and tightness.

Dr Salathe’s team found that vaping with nicotine sews the seeds of that condition. 

The nicotine slows down the rate at which airways can clear mucus, dehydrates airway fluid, and makes mucus more sticky. 

As a result, the bronchi, which lead to the lungs, are weaker and lesser prepared to fend off infections or bugs.  

‘Vaping with nicotine is not harmless as commonly assumed by those who start vaping. At the very least, it increases the risk of chronic bronchitis,’ Dr Salathe said. 

‘Our study, along with others, might even question e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach for current smokers with respect to chronic bronchitis/COPD.’

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