Vaping linked to lung changes that cause emphysema in smokers

The bad news about vaping continues to roll in with a new study from the University of North Carolina Health Care, where researchers identified changes in the lungs of vapers that mirror those seen in the lungs of smokers. These changes, according to the study, pave the way for the development of a lung disease called emphysema in people who smoke traditional cigarettes.

Vaping is the term used for the act of inhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. The most commonly vaped substances are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin mixed with flavorings and nicotine, though some products mix THC from cannabis into solutions that can be vaped.

Some people who use these devices were found to have experienced lung changes akin to what is seen smokers who have emphysema, according to the new study. The change involves an elevated level of protease enzymes, something linked to the presence of nicotine in particular.

When these enzymes are chronically produced at excessive rates, the researchers note, air sac structures in the lungs become damaged, making it hard to breathe. The researchers looked at samples of lung fluid from 41 people, including vapers, smokers, and non-smokers.

Whereas non-smokers had normal levels of these enzymes, the vapers and smokers were both found to have elevated levels, hinting that both were at risk for the development of emphysema. Vaping liquids with higher concentrations of nicotine may increase the overproduction, leading to more rapid damage of the air sacs.