So you stopped smoking and went electronic instead?

Stop all that bad tar, chemicals and smoke – with E-cigarettes. It’s just water vapour, some nicotine and a bit of flavor. So no more cough…or so you thought!

It seems that it is nicotine after all that is part of the cause of the smoker’s cough and not just the chemical that keeps you hooked. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center have looked into how nicotine impacts human cells, and here are the facts; The normal lining of the airways contains cilia (small hairs) and a layer of mucus. They work together to propel mucus and particles caught during breathing in the direction of the mouth and nose to be expelled passively.

Coughs happen when the airways are irritated by anything that should not enter the lungs. It is how our body protects our lungs.

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When this mechanism is interfered with and breaks down, it is called Mucociliary dysfunction. It is what causes the build up of mucus in the lungs. When that happens we need to cough out what should in normal circumstances come out passively. It is seen in asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis, causing shortness of breath, and coughing.

Researchers found that nicotine can slow down the rate of mucus clearance, by dehydrating the airways. This makes the mucus thicker and stickier, reducing the airway clearance ability, making these airways chronically inflamed and more susceptible to infections. Since there is more nicotine in a vaping session than in a normal cigarette it potentially worsens the problem.

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Another reason is that tobacco carries nicotine quickly into the bloodstream, but vapor does not. Hence there is an accumulation of nicotine in the lung tissue. This will cause a build up of phlegm which will increase the risk of a cough, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. This has been found to occur faster in younger E smokers.

There is much research being conducted by the FDA recently into e cigarettes as they have up till now not been regulated. Not much is known about them. What we do know is that they contain many chemicals that were never meant to be inhaled like food flavourings. We know that they are not safe.