An Irish anti-tobacco group has urged people to start vaping only as a last resort when trying to quit smoking, following a new study on e-cigarettes.
The study, published by the 'British Medical Journal', revealed e-cigarette vapour destroys protective cells which keep the lungs clear of harmful particles. It showed the vapour impairs the activity of cells known as macrophages, which help remove dust, bacteria and allergens.
Some of the damage highlighted is similar to the effects of tobacco and chronic lung disease. The researchers concluded vaping in itself increases the damage caused by the e-cigarette fluid.
Dr Patrick Doorley, chairman of Ash Ireland, said the report added to reservations about the safety of e-cigarettes.
"We certainly shouldn't dismiss this study," he said. "We have known for quite some time about the concerns of vaping. Our health regulator Hiqa conducted a major study in recent years [which] acknowledged that, while e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking, there were still many reservations.
"The single biggest concern we have at the moment is their long-term safety."
Dr Doorley said e-cigarettes should not be the go-to solution when giving up smoking. "There are options that are safer and have a good long-term track record, like the drug varenicline, along with nicotine replacement therapy."
According to a Euromonitor International report, Ireland is the third-biggest spender on e-cigarette products per capita. Those wishing to quit can contact the National Quitline online at www.quit.ie or call 1800 201203.