Feb. 11 (UPI) -- New heated tobacco devices cause the same lung damage as e-cigarettes, study says.
Researchers found that these heated tobacco devices exposed the lungs to a high level of toxicity, just like cigarettes and e-cigarettes, findings published in the European Respiratory Society showed.
"Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, and with the introduction of e-cigarettes in the last decade, the trend of nicotine uptake is not going to slow down in the near future," Pawan Sharma, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney and study author, in a news release. "If the current trend continues, tobacco use will cause more than eight million deaths annually by 2030 around the world."
The new devices damage the epithelial cells, which protects the human airway. It also harms the smooth muscle cells that help maintain the structure of the airway.
"The latest addition in this emerging trend is the planned and vigorous introduction of heated tobacco devices. They are commonly called next generation or heat-not-burn products," Sharma said. "Researchers discovered that cigarette smoke was potentially dangerous to cells at lower and higher concentrations compared to e-cigarettes, which were only toxic at higher levels."
Companies that sell the devices, however, say that since the tobacco is heated and not burned they produce 95 percent lower levels of toxic compounds.
"It took us nearly five decades to understand the damaging effects of cigarette smoke and we don't yet know the long-term impact of using e-cigarettes," Sharma said. "These devices that heat solid tobacco are relatively new and it will be decades before we will fully understand their effects on human health."
She said, however, that researchers already know that damage to the two types of lung cells can lead to fatal diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and pneumonia -- in addition to increasing the risk for asthma development.
Some studies that experimented with heated tobacco in rats even showed lung inflammation.
"The introduction and vigorous marketing of new devices is very tempting to smokers who want to stop smoking and mistakenly believe they can switch to another harmless tobacco product," Sharma said.
"It is also opening another avenue for attracting young people to use and become addicted to nicotine. This study adds to evidence that these new devices are not the safe substitute to cigarette smoking they are promoted to be," Sharma added.