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May 27th, 2015:

Even Nicotine-Free E-Cig Vapor Damages Lung Cells

by Janet Fang

In the last couple of years, electronic cigarette use has exceeded that of traditional cigarettes among teenagers. And now, a new study shows how e-cigs aren’t necessarily great for lung health either: not only is nicotine damaging for the lungs in any form, but even exposure to vapor from e-cigs that don’t contain nicotine may have deleterious effects.

E-cig use among middle and high school students tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That’s two million high school students and nearly half a million middle school students across the country. “In today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, the surge in youth use of novel products like e-cigarettes forces us to confront the reality that the progress we have made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates is being threatened,” the FDA’s Mitch Zeller said in a statement last month.

Cigarette smoke causes the breakdown of lung endothelial cells – the ones that make up the lining of the paired organ – which can lead to various lung injuries and inflammation. The addictive chemical nicotine is just one of hundreds of components in cigarette smoke and researchers are still trying to figure out which of these are causing the injurious loss of lung cell integrity.

Indiana University’s Kelly Schweitzer and colleagues wanted to see if nicotine alone is enough to alter the cellular matrix that supports the shape and function of lung cells. They exposed mice, as well as cells from mice and humans, to cigarette smoke extract and to two kinds of e-cig solution: one containing nicotine, the other being nicotine-free. Nicotine’s harmful effects depend on the dose, they found, and result in loss of lung endothelial barrier function, acute lung inflammation and decreased lung endothelial cell proliferation. The team observed these effects in cigarette smoke and in e-cig solutions containing nicotine.

Importantly, the nicotine-free e-cig solutions also contained substances that harmed lung cells. For instance, acrolein targets molecules that hold the lung endothelial cells together.

“The increased use of inhaled nicotine via e-cigarettes, especially among the youth, prompts increased research into the effects on health. This research reports that components found in commercially available e-cigarette solutions and vapors generated by heating them may cause lung inflammation,” study co-author Irina Petrache of IU says in a news release. “The effects described characterize short-term effects of e-cig exposures. Whereas studies of long-term effects await further investigations, these results caution that e-cigarette inhalation may be associated with adverse effects on lung health.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology this month.

JTI files case against UK on plain packaging for cigarettes

The UK’s second biggest cigarette brand Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has joined the fray, filing a lawsuit against the government’s mandate for plain packaging.

The UK’s second biggest cigarette company Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has joined the fray, filing a lawsuit against the government’s mandate for plain packaging.

JTI’s suit follows similar actions taken by Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco.

The companies have trained their guns on the government’s move to introduce standardized, unbranded packaging for cigarettes effective May 2017.

The trio has maintained that plain packaging will be in breach of legal provisions in the UK and European Union.

Smokers cost HK $11.3bn a year

A study by Chinese University of Hong Kong said smoking costs taxpayers HK$11.3 billion each year.

The University’s Faculty of Medicine estimated that health-care expenses and productivity losses related to tobacco more than doubled in less than 20 years.

Dr Vivian Lee, a CUHK Associate Professor who headed the research, said there are more than 640,000 smokers in Hong Kong, and she expects the city’s cost from their habit to go higher.

The study also found each local smoker spends about HK$20,000 on tobacco products each year, making Hong Kong one of the most expensive cities in which to smoke in the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr Lee said the cost of smoking in the SAR is higher than in South Korea, but lower than in Singapore. She said the authority should promote a comprehensive approach in reducing smoking morbidity, instead of simply raising cigarette taxes

Sweden puffs up outdoor smoking ban proposals

Plans for an outdoor smoking plan in Sweden are hotting up with reports that a majority of politicians in the Swedish parliament will back plans to stop people lighting up on terraces and in beer gardens.

Sweden was one of the first countries in Europe to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes around the country, almost exactly ten years ago.

The idea of extending the ban to include places such as outdoor terraces has been repeatedly discussed in the Nordic nation and in October 2014 Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) revealed its full proposals for new limits, to be considered by the government.

Now, top Swedish lawyer Göran Lundahl has been tasked with checking out how such a law might be worded and how this would fit in with the latest EU Tobacco Products Directive, which was approved by the European Parliament in February 2014 and aims to further limit smoking across member states.

Lundahl’s research is set to be completed by March 1st 2016 but he told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Wednesday that he was hopeful that a ban on smoking in outdoor restaurant areas could work.

“It won’t be so difficult technically to extend the smoking ban to outdoor dining. However, it is a little more difficult when it comes to things such as sidewalks outside entrances. But we pondering on this and hope that we can come up with a scheme that works,” he said.

Meanwhile the broadcaster says it has information which suggests that a majority of politicians from across the political spectrum will support a ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas.

YOUR VIEWS: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?

Repeated polls suggest that most Swedes back the idea of an extended smoking ban, with young people especially in favour of the plan.

“It’s about time to make public places free of cigarette smoke,” the head of Sweden’s Public Health Agency Johan Carlson said last year when announcing its push for a ban.

“Many people are uncomfortable with cigarette smoke and it can even trigger breathing difficulties for asthmatics.”

Lung cancer groups in Sweden made headlines in 2013 after proposing that the country should have a total smoking ban by 2025.

Big Tobacco fights back: how the cigarette kings bought the vaping industry

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