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Smoking cessation

Tobacco heating products may not be safer than traditional cigarettes, early stage study finds

Tobacco heating products, also known as, ‘heat-not-burn’ products, can be as damaging to lung cell functioning as cigarette smoke, a study published in ERJ Open Research has found (online, 10 February 2019).

Researchers tested the effects of cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapour and vapour from a heated tobacco device on two types of cells taken from the human airways: epithelial cells and smooth muscle cells.

The team exposed the cells to different concentrations of smoke/vapour from all three nicotine sources, and measured whether this was damaging to cells and their normal functioning. 

They found that cigarette smoke and heated tobacco vapour were highly toxic to the cells both at lower and higher concentrations while e-cigarette vapour demonstrated toxicity mainly at higher concentrations.

“Our results suggest that all three are toxic to the cells of our lungs and that these new heated tobacco devices are as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes,” said lead author Sukhwinder Sohal, a researcher at the University of Tasmania, Australia.

“It took us nearly five decades to understand the damaging effects of cigarette smoke and we don’t yet know the long-term impact of using e-cigarettes. These devices that heat solid tobacco are relatively new and it will be decades before we will fully understand their effects on human health.

“What we do know is that damage to these two types of lung cells can destroy lung tissue, leading to fatal diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia, and can increase the risk of developing asthma, so we should not assume that these devices are a safer option.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206140

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