New Type of E-Cig as Bad as Regular Cigarette for Your Lungs

A new e-cig uses solid tobacco. Getty Images

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“Heat-not-burn” tobacco products are already incredibly popular in some overseas markets, but they haven’t made inroads into the United States yet.

Promoted in a similar fashion to e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, public health experts worry that “heat-not-burn” products could be the next big phase for the tobacco industry.

Because of their novelty, there is little scientific research on these devices about their safety and usefulness for smoking cessation.

But in a damning new study, researchers say they aren’t any better for you than either traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

What the study found

The paper, published this week in the journal ERJ Open Research, looked at the in vitro effects of vapor produced by IQOS devices (IQOS is the brand name of a “heat-not-burn” tobacco product by Philip Morris International, an American tobacco company) on human cells found in the lungs and airways.

Researchers exposed bronchial epithelial cells and primary human airway smooth muscle cells to IQOS vapor and directly compared what they saw to the effects of cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor.

All three were found to be toxic to lung cells, with the IQOS device’s vapor having a comparable toxicity to traditional smoking.

“We observed different levels of cellular toxicity with all forms of exposures in human lung cells. What came out clearly was that the newer products were in no way less toxic to cells than conventional cigarettes or e-cigarette vaping,” said Sukhwinder Sohal, PhD, one of the authors of the study and a health sciences researcher at University of Tasmania’s Respiratory Translational Research Group.

The study concludes that IQOS devices, like cigarettes and e-cigarettes, have the potential to lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, and other deleterious effects on the lungs and airways. Over the long term, this can lead to serious health problems typically seen in smokers, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

The authors say that their study is an important first step in understanding the potential harm of “heat-not-burn” tobacco products.

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