If you thought vaping was safe, Kansas researchers have bad news

A robot at KU’s School of Medicine takes the vapor from e-cigarettes to test it on human cells from lung donors. (Photo by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service)

by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service

Many people figure vaping spares their health because it lets them inhale nicotine in aerosols instead of sucking in smoke from burning cigarettes.

New research from the University of Kansas casts doubt on that, raising the specter that vaping nicotine may cause some of the same respiratory problems that plague and even kill smokers today.

“Vaping is just considered not harmful, even though there are no data to support that statement,” researcher Matthias Salathe said. “There are more and more data to actually oppose that statement.”

Salathe chairs the Department of Internal Medicine at KU’s School of Medicine, where his lab uses a robot that vapes to test the effects on human cells obtained from deceased lung donors.

The team’s latest research, published last month by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found vaping nicotine damaged the natural ability of those cells to clear out mucus.

That dysfunction leads to chronic bronchitis — and the coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue that come with it. Scientists such as Salathe worry that means the vaping trend sweeping the U.S. could eventually translate into more people developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Commonly caused by smoking, COPD is already a leading cause of death in the United States.

The KU researchers found that the aerosols from nicotine e-cigarettes hurt mucus-clearing abilities in sheep, too. (Sheep were used because of similarities between their respiratory system and that of humans.)

Yet the KU research remains at the pre-clinical phase, meaning scientists have more work ahead to answer the question with greater certainty.

Taken in context with other research, though, Salathe sees reason for worry. His lab’s results add to a mounting body of evidence that vaping causes such problems, including evidence from studies on living people who vape.

Getting more definitive answers, though, takes time. Rigorous scientific research can’t move as fast as the vaping craze that now has millions of U.S. teenagersinhaling nicotine. And diseases like COPD play out over years.

“To really know, we need to wait 10 to 20 years, right? To see whether these humans are actually developing the diseases that we predict,” Salathe said. “The question is, now from a policy point of view, is that an acceptable experiment to actually do in the population?”

Tobacco use remains the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the U.S.

More than 20 cities and counties across Kansas have banned the sale of tobacco-related products to people under the age of 21 in hopes of preventing them from becoming hooked.

That’s based on studies that show most people who become addicted long-term begin using nicotine in their teens.

Last month the Kansas Supreme Court upheld local bans on sales to people under 21 in a case brought by vape and tobacco shops against the city of Topeka. Wyandotte County has had an ordinance since November 2015 raising the age for sale of tobacco-related products to 21.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celialj_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

See more at https://www.kcur.org/post/if-you-thought-vaping-was-safe-kansas-researchers-have-bad-news

Leavenworth Road Association to meet tonight

The Leavenworth Road Association will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, at the Eisenhower Recreation Center, 2901 N. 72nd St., Kansas City, Kansas. Dinner and a social hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by the meeting at 7 p.m.

A speaker with the Unified Government Parks and Recreation Department will highlight the upcoming Christmas in July event on July 20 at Wyandotte County Lake. This event will include a pontoon parade, food booths and fireworks.

Grinter Jamboree to be tonight

The Grinter Jamboree will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, at the Grinter Barn, 1400 S. 78th St., Kansas City, Kansas.

MP3 will play country swing music, with tunes by George Strait, Bob Wills and Texas swing.

The admission charge is $6 at the door, with light snacks available for purchase.