Vaping, or inhaling vapour from electronic cigarettes was since its introduction considered a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. Many millennials enthusiastically embraced this new pastime as something cool, clean and sleek, a convenient pleasure coming with negligible adverse effects and hardly any downsides. But medical science has some bad news for all you trendy vapers: e-cigs do pose a serious health risk, and in this respect, they are hardly any safer than those traditional tobacco-smelling fags. According to a research paper published in the European Respiratory Journal, scientists from the Queen Mary University Of London found that inhaling vapours produced by electronic cigarettes significantly increases the risk of pneumonia.

The research revealed these vapours allowing pathogenic bacteria to adhere to cells lining the inner surface of the lower respiratory tract, thus paving way for the disease to develop.

Cells study yielded conclusive results in mice and humans

The comparative study was focused on the effects of e-cigarette vapour on platelet-activating factor receptor (PAFR), a molecule synthesised by the cells lining the airways. It included experiments on in vitro cell cultures, as well as on live mice and humans. It showed that, when it comes to pneumonia risk, effects produced by e-cigarette vapour are hardly any different to those arising from a traditional cigarette smoke or pollution particles produced by burning of any fossil fuel.

Both of the latter factors were long known to increase susceptibility to lung infection with pneumococcal bacteria.

Vaping presents health risk even without nicotine

The particular effect scientists have discovered was that in 17 patients participating in the study, the level of the PAT receptor in the airways reached triple values within an hour after smoking electronic cigarettes.

PAT is a mediator of inflammation, synthesised by cells of the immune system in response to vapour particles exerted on the receptor protein. It appears that vaping markedly enhanced this process, a telling sign of inflammation, as well as the growth of veins which, too, significantly increases the risk of pneumonia. In numerical terms, smoking electronic cigarettes result in doubling numbers of bacteria that adhere to the receptor cells, and this effect does not depend on whether nicotine is present in the air.

'Heat-not-burn' e-cigarettes are next to be studied

According to lead researcher Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at the Queen Mary University of London, the study conclusively indicates that smoking electronic cigarettes, especially in the long term, has a potential to increase the risk of developing a bacterial lung infection. Professor Grigg and his team plan to continue to study vaping and related infections in humans. In particular, they will endeavour to look at the effects of using the recently launched range of 'heat-not-burn' e-cigarettes. The press release of the study is available on the MedicalXpress website.