Politicians have long tried to convince the public that vaping is just as dangerous as smoking and should therefore be regulated in the very same way as Big Tobacco products. However, scientists around the globe are not so quick to accept this generalized rationalization. Could it be that politicians are simply too lazy to develop, implement, and manage a separate set of regulatory protocols for vaping? For regulatory purposes, is it just easier for government officials to lump both electronic cigarettes and combustible tobacco products into a single category?
Scientists like Dr. Christopher Stewart of the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University in Tyne, UK, are now conducting research in their related areas of expertise to determine if smoking and vaping as equally as dangerous to public health. In the case of Dr. Stewart who is a world-class microbiologist, he is evaluating how vaping effects the growth of microbial bacterial in the gastrointestinal tract.
Sometimes referred to as probiotic gut bacteria, some intestinal microbes are good and some are bad. Manufacturers of Greek yogurt such as Activia use this basic scientific principle to sell billions of dollars in food products. If Stewart’s research is accurate, perhaps the vaping industry can make similar claims in advertising and perhaps prevent further federal oversight in the long term.
The Stewart vaping study on gastrointestinal bacteria
The peer-reviewed vaping study entitled Effects of tobacco smoke and electronic cigarette vapor exposure on the oral and gut microbiota in humans: a pilot study is readily available online via Peerj. The Stewart team began by selecting a group of thirty participants: ten non-smokers, ten vapers, and ten smokers.
Throughout the course of this first-of-its-kind pilot program, the researchers collected periodic fecal, saliva, and buccal samples. All samples underwent an extensive V4 16S rRNA gene sequencing process and were evaluated for a wide range of gastrointestinal bacteria levels, including Bacteroides and Prevotella.
What the Stewart team discovered is that the vaping group exhibited approximately the same healthy levels of Bacteroides, Prevotella, and other forms of gut bacteria. Meanwhile, the smoking group exhibited higher levels of Prevotella which is often an early indicator of colon cancer. Smokers also exhibited lower Bacteroide levels which can be an early warning sign of Chron’s Disease.
“In summary, we found that tobacco smoking significantly alters the bacterial profiles in feces, buccal, and saliva samples. Compared to controls, exposure to ECs had no effect on the oral or gut communities. Changes in the gut microbiota of tobacco smokers were associated with increased relative abundance of Prevotella and decreased relative abundance of Bacteroides. From a microbial ecology perspective, this study supports the perception that ECs represent a safer alternative to tobacco smoking.”
The Stewart research team also notes that further research is required before any definitive scientific conclusions can be made, but this first-ever pilot study is still welcome news for vaping advocates. Also noteworthy in the study’s findings is that vaping not only seems to help regulate the growth of negative gastrointestinal microbes, but it also appears to be highly effective in keeping negative oral bacteria in check.
This interesting fact seems to support decades-old research by a Dr. Theodore Puck in the 1940s. Puck’s research found that vaporized propylene glycol, an ingredient commonly found in e-liquids, in a highly affective antibacterial agent. Several of his studies’ have further proven that vaporized propylene glycol kills such potentially deadly microbes as pneumococci, streptococci, staphylococci, and even the influenza virus. Thanks to such forward-thinking scientists like Puck, Dr. Stewart’s more recent research involving gastrointestinal bacteria no longer sounds so far-fetched.