More Evidence That E-Cigarettes Are Harmful

The flavor chemicals seem to damage endothelial cells, and this can be a very bad thing.

“Doc, I quit crack cocaine like that,” he said, snapping his fingers in my office. “But I can’t stop the cigarettes.” I still encouraged him to do his best to quit.

It must not have been two years later, and he was dead from metastatic lung cancer. He never made it into his 50s.

Given this and many other tragic experiences as a lung doctor — all the while seeing the devastation wrought by cigarettes and their harmful smoke — I welcome anyone who switches from smoking to e-cigarettes. If I had to make a choice, I would choose someone “e-smoking” than really smoking.

That doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes are harmless. New research, in fact, suggests quite the opposite.

In the June 4 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers investigated the effects of flavored e-cigarette liquids and the serum from e-cigarette users on endothelial cells. The results were concerning, with the authors concluding that “acute exposure to flavored e-liquids or e-cigarette use exacerbates endothelial dysfunction…”

The endothelial cells are the cells that line all of our blood vessels. They are extremely important cells, and quite a few devastating disease states — such as cardiovascular disease, sepsis, and others — often begin with dysfunction of these cells. Do these cells frank damage, like in sepsis, and you can get multiple organ failure in a matter of hours.

This evidence adds to the growing body of literature that suggests that e-cigarettes are not as benign as its most ardent supporters suggest. There is still nicotine in the liquid, and nicotine is one of— if not the most — addictive substances on earth.

If I had my choice, I would rather no one smoke anything: e-cigarette or otherwise. I realize this is a lung doctor’s pipe dream (pun intended), and at the same time, I can always hope, dream, and pray. Like I said before, the lungs were designed only to inhale air…smoke (or chemical-laden water vapor) are not natural. And more and more research suggests these substances are actually causing harm.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or any of the institutions with which I am affiliated.

NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist | Physician Leader | Author and Blogger | His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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