There are many myths associated with electronic cigarette use, one in particular is the ability to avoid chronic lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In fact, according to a recent Central Michigan University (CMU) study, just as traditional cigarettes have the potential to cause these diseases, so too does the use of e-cigarettes.
The study examined how the vapor in e-cigarettes compared to tobacco smoke in traditional cigarettes affected cells in the lungs. The findings indicated that “even minimal exposure of e-cigarette vapor for one hour, disrupted the protein processes in cells”. Additionally, the researchers also found that the vapor takes the “same path cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke takes in our bodies”. This means that the proteins in the cells can be disrupted, causing damage to the alveoli (the air sacs in the lungs), which gradually breaks down and causes emphysema.
Neeraj Vij, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at CMU and study author, noted that human bronchial epithelial cells exposed to e-cigarette vapor “from one to six hours and saw significant disruptions of the protein processing in the cells”.
Vij warns that while e-cigarette manufacturers tout them as a tar- and tobacco-free alternatives to traditional cigarettes, be wary of the potential side effects, noting that the “process of proteostasis (protein processing) in our cells has to be very tightly regulated, because if it goes off-balance, it's a big problem”.