Tobacco smoking and its many negative health effects have been documented for years now. Lung diseases alone induced by smoking include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. In come e-cigarettes in 2006, which many viewed as the healthy alternative to tobacco smoking. Dubbed the safer alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes have exploded in popularity in the years following their introduction. However, in a recent article published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, researchers discovered that e-cigarette use actually suppressed more immune response genes in nasal epithelial cells than traditional smoking did. In this article, a clinical study involving the analysis of nasal scrape biopsies, nasal lavage, urine, and serum from 3 groups (nonsmokers, cigarette smokers, and e-cigarette users) were conducted to look for differential changes in gene expression profiles, specifically genes relating to the immune system. It was found that all genes that showed decreased expression in cigarette smokers, when compared to nonsmokers, were also decreased in e-cigarette smokers (n = 53) and to a greater degree. Furthermore, vaping was also associated with suppression of an additional 305 unique genes.
Does this mean e-cigarettes are worse than cigarettes?
The authors caution against making this comparison between the two. Vapor inhalation and smoke inhalation are two different processes. As a result, while there will be some similarities in the health effects seen, vaping could result in a different set of biological effects and resulting respiratory complications.
In this study, scientists identified over 300 genes that were suppressed in association with e-cigarette use.
Martin et al. E-cigarette use results in suppression of immune and inflammatory-response genes in nasal epithelial cells similar to cigarette smoke 2016, American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology 311.1, 135-144. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/ajplung.00170.2016