Tobacco giant uses smoking robot and human lung cells to test the health risks of ‘vaping’ – with astonishing results
Electronic cigarettes pump out vapour which has NO toxic effect on the cells found in human lungs, scientists have claimed.
Fresh research funded by British American Tobacco has suggested inhaling nicotine vapour could be as safe as breathing air.
To perform its experiments, the tobacco giant teamed up with the MatTek Corporation, which makes models of human cells used in ‘in vitro’ laboratory experiments.
Scientists then used a “smoking robot” to expose these lung cell replicas to tobacco smoke, the vapour from two different brands of e-cig and just plain old air.
When exposed to old-fashioned smoke for six hours, the cells died.
But after subjecting the cells to an “aggressive and continuous” dose of vapour, researchers claimed the damage to the airway tissue was “similar to that of air”.
‘By employing a combination of a smoking robot and a lab-based test using respiratory tissue, it was possible to demonstrate…. the e-cigarette aerosols used in this study have no [toxic] effect on human airway tissue,’ said BAT spokesperson Dr Marina Murphy.
There are now plans to carry out the same tests using the vapour from a wider variety of e-cigs, to prove its results.
“Currently there are no standards concerning the in vitro testing of e-cigarette aerosols,” said Marina Trani, Group Head Scientific Product Stewardship at British American Tobacco.
“Our protocol could prove very useful in helping the process by which these guidelines might progress.”
A debate about the safety of e-cigarettes has now been raging for several years.
Study after study have highlighted health risks, although most experts agree vaping is much safer than smoking cigarettes.
Dr Michael Siegel, professor in the department of community health sciences at Boston University’s school of public health, welcomed the latest study as evidence of the safety of electronic cigarettes.
“Despite the limitations of the research, it adds additional evidence to support the contention that vaping is a lot safer than smoking,” he said.
He called on public health bodies and anti-tobacco groups to encourage smokers to swap to vaping – a step which would “transform the nicotine market and achieve a huge public health victory”.
“Such a phenomenon would result in the greatest public health miracle of our lifetimes,” Dr Siegel proclaimed.
However, the health expert warned that overheating liquid nicotine could produce dangerous toxins.
Vaping advocates previously claimed the results of research which found e-cigs pumped out dangerous chemicals were false because the nicotine liquid had been exposed to high temperatures.
Earlier this year, British American Tobacco announced the release of a device called Voke which is licensed as a medicine and produces no heat, working more like an asthma inhaler than an electronic cigarette.
Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, told Mirror Online he was satisfied the latest research was accurate.
“While I’m sure that for many the source of the research will be a problem, of recent years the science conducted by the tobacco industry has been of very good quality, and despite the historic issues I wouldn’t view it with any greater scepticism than research conducted elsewhere,” he said.
“The results are not unexpected.
“Not only are the components of an e-cig aerosol expected to be of low toxicity, based on a large number of analytical studies, but this research broadly agrees with a previous study.”