Research suggests that the new trend of heated tobacco devices is as hazardous to lung cells as vaping and traditional cigarettes. The new smoking device heats solid tobacco instead of e-liquid. Research published in ERJ Open Research and spearheaded by Dr Pawan Sharma proves that the substitute is not a safe choice to cigarette smoking. In a statement by Sharma, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia, he said, “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and with the introduction of e-cigarettes in the last decade, the trend of nicotine uptake is not going to slow down in the near future. If the current trend continues, tobacco use will cause more than eight million deaths annually by 2030 around the world.”
A team of scientists examined the effects of traditional smoking, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco on two types of cells from human airways, these included epithelial cells and smooth muscle cells. The results conclude that in healthy lungs, the epithelial cells function as defenders for foreign particles entering airway, whereas smooth muscle cells maintain the structure of the airway. Smoking hampers the functionalities of these cells. By exposing cells to varied concentrations of smoke: normal cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapour, heated tobacco vapour; the cells were damaged and it also affected the normal functioning of the cells. Moreover, even lower concentrations of smoke affected the functioning of the cells. The research team concluded that the newer products were not any less toxic to conventional smoking.
Sharma also added that it had taken the team about five decades to evaluate the damaging effects of cigarette smoke and the impact of 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,” he said.
Sharma hopes that these results will further encourage research on heated tobacco devices. Reports suggest that he aims to continue research of nicotine devices on models of lung tissue and in mice. In another statement, he reports, “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.”