Friday, 9 June 2017
E-cigarette vapour may prevent mouth ulcers from healing
Electronic cigarettes can stop wounds from healing, experts have warned. A study found that chemicals in the devices can impair the processes that allow the body to repair itself. The findings may explain why some users can develop persistent painful mouth sores and ulcers. E-cigarettes are widely promoted as a safer replacement for tobacco. But toxicology experts in the US say they can lead to a range of health issues. A study by the University of Rochester in New York, published in the journal Scientific Reports, exposed damaged lung tissue to e-cig vapours in the laboratory. They found the nicotine and flavour chemicals prevented certain cells getting enough energy to heal a wound properly. Study leader Dr Irfan Rahman said: ‘While it is perceived that they may be less harmful than conventional smoking, our data shows e-cigarettes can lead to other health issues apart from lung damage.’
E-cigarettes contain a liquid form of nicotine that is heated into vapour to be inhaled, avoiding the harm caused by tobacco smoke. Nearly 3 million adults in Britain have used e-cigarettes in the decade they have been on the market. Health experts agree that the devices are much safer than smoking tobacco – and the gadgets are thought to have helped 22,000 people quit smoking each year.
But many are worried about unresolved safety concerns, particularly linked to the chemicals used to flavour the vapour. Others are also concerned that e-cigarettes provide a ‘gateway’ for teenagers to go on to smoke tobacco. The scientists, whose work is published in the journal Scientific Reports, exposed human lung tissue to e-cigarettes vapours in the laboratory. When they wounded the tissue by scratching it, some of the cells around the wound - known as fibroblasts - began to change to begin the process of repairing the damage. Normally these cells produce matrix-like structures that new tissue can grow across while those cells around the edge of the wound shrink to help close it. But Dr Rahman and his colleagues found after exposure to flavoured e-cigarette vapour, the wounds did not close up. They also found the ability of the cells around the wound to convert to those needed for wound healing was also inhibited. Dr Rahman said it appears the nicotine and flavour chemicals in the e-cigarette vapour were preventing the fibroblast cells from getting the energy they needed to heal a wound properly. He said further work was needed to examine what impact this would have in the lungs and mouth of real people. But he added it may explain why vapers often report suffering persistent ulcers and sores on their gums.
This gum damage could even lead to teeth falling out in the most serious cases, he warned.
He said: ‘How much and how often someone is smoking or vaping flavoured e-cigarettes will determine the extent of damage to the gums and oral cavity.’
The research comes after scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, found traces of toxic metals in the e-liquids used by five major brands of e-cigarettes. Others have found apparently harmless liquids can generate harmful compounds like formaldehyde when they are heated by the coil in an e-cigarette. Martin Dockrell, head of tobacco control at Public Health England said that despite the results, e-cigarettes remain much less harmful than smoking.