Did you know that using e-cigarettes appear to damage mucus clearance?

Did you know that using e-cigarettes appear to damage mucus clearance?
© iStock/HadelProductions

Published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, research shows that using e-cigarettes appears to impair mucus clearance.

According to a team of researchers from the University of Kansas, University of Miami and Mt. Sinai Medical Center, USA, using e-cigarettes/ vaping with nicotine appears to hamper mucus clearance from the airways. The researchers report that exposing human airway cells to e-cigarette vapour containing nicotine in culture resulted in a decreased ability to move mucus or phlegm across the surface.

This phenomenon is called ‘mucociliary dysfunction’, and the researchers report the same finding in vivo in sheep, whose airways mimic those of humans when exposed to e-cigarette vapour.

The influence of using e-cigarettes and tobacco smoke

Senior author Matthias Salathe, chair of internal medicine and a professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center explains: “This study grew out of our team’s research on the influence of tobacco smoke on mucus clearance from the airways.”

“The question was whether vape containing nicotine had negative effects on the ability to clear secretions from the airways similar to tobacco smoke. ”

Mucociliary dysfunction is a feature of many lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis. Specifically, the study found that vaping with nicotine impairs ciliary beat frequency, dehydrates airway fluid and makes mucus more viscous or sticky.

These variations make it more difficult for the bronchi, the main passageways to the lung, to defend themselves from injury and infection.

The risk of developing bronchitis

The researchers note that a recent report found that young e-cigarette users who never smoked were at increased risk to develop chronic bronchitis, a condition characterised by chronic production of phlegm that is also seen in tobacco smokers.

Dr. Salathe said the newly published data not only support the earlier clinical report, but also helped to explain it.

A single session of vaping can deliver more nicotine to the airways than smoking one cigarette. Moreover, according to Salathe, absorption into the bloodstream is lower, possibly exposing the airways to high nicotine concentrations for prolonged periods of time.

“Vaping with nicotine is not harmless as commonly assumed by those who start vaping, At the very least, it increases the risk of chronic bronchitis.” Salathe said.

“Our study, along with others, might even question e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach for current smokers with respect to chronic bronchitis/COPD.”

Subscribe to our newsletter


  1. Hmm i wonder if this is true, why I haven’t had a cold or flu for the last 9 years I have been vaping. Sounds like more scare story to me.

  2. Unfortunately this makes total sense to me,
    I have given up smoking traditional cigarettes (from which I had no symptoms)
    Two years ago now,
    Now when I wake I have to clear my chest as it’s crackling and bubbling with mucus build up,
    I also get these symptoms through the day but not as severe.

  3. I used to smoke tobacco with my marijuana, but in very small amounts. Maybe a cigarette a week. I started vaping and went at strong for a year. I was using a very high level of nicotine. 48mg if nicotine to be exact. I noticed all these symptoms in a matter of a couple weeks and they havent gone away. I’ve quit using the vape for 3 months now but still have my symptoms. They’ve hardly died down. I wish I never vaped 🙁

  4. I quit smoking using an electronic cigarette (Vuse Vibe) over 10 months ago. The e-cigarette is definitely better than traditional tobacco! I’ve now quit the e-cig 4 days ago, and are experiencing similar withdrawal symptoms; mainly a slight sore throat, and loose cough of phlegm occasionally. I run on the treadmill regularly, and my breathing is definitely less labored. I did notice some similarity in bronchial irritation, as compared to traditional cigarettes. I’ve truly found a mind-over-matter scenario here, where the habit of the behavior (ie: e-cig with coffee, after meals, or craving when get in vehicle) is the most important cycle to break. I’m now down to using 2 mg Nicotine gum. Congratulations to every ex-smoker, and it doesn’t have to be ALL or NONE. If you make progress from 1 pack per day, to only 1 cigarette per day– you are successful in your quest!

  5. I’ve been vaping 5 years. And for some unknown reason I’ve ended up with bronchitis. And the paper hasn’t been tasting the same for a long time. Last night I nearly choked through the the aftertaste of the Vapour I’m seriously thinking about giving vaping up as well as smoking now. It can’t be good for you in the long term. It’s still putting nicotine in your body.

  6. I am starting to believe vapor is worse than smoking except you don’t smell like an ashtray. I smoked for like 30 years plus and gave it up in 2014. I started to vapor summer of 2019. It’s Feb 11th 2020 and I’ve come down with acute bronchitis. I felt better in like a week went back to my vapor and I am worse now. I am coughing so hard that I can’t control my urine from releasing from my body. I have body aches and chills. I just want to sleep.
    I really enjoyed to vapor but if this is how it’s going to make me feel not worth it.

    • Hi Lisa….how long did it take for you to start feeling better? And did you get completely better? I stopped smoking, and started vaping about a month ago….I’ve had bronchitis for the last 3 weeks. At first it was’t that bad, but it kept getting worse until I stopped vaping. I’m still coughing and crackling every time I breathe….on top of having shortness of breathe. With the Covid-19 scariness going on, my doctor won’t even see me. It would be nice to know if your symptoms eventually went away.

  7. Vaping for a year or so, but recently learned I had 2 thick heart muscles. I feel ok but the doctors are checking to see if there is a build-up of protein or Amyloid!!

  8. I am going through this right now. Been vaping for 5 years, and diagnosed bronchitis in the middle of this covid pandemic. It got me confused with the cough and all, but i will take swab test to make sure. Now, i’ve stopped vaping for 4 days and really miss the puff.
    Is there any chance that bacteria did this (bronchitis)? Cause i realized that i rarely wash my atomizer tip.
    Is higher nicotine concentration gives more damage to lung than the lower one?

  9. Give up vaping will be two weeks now on Saturday have a really strange cough now throat was sore for couple days now is better but just the cough is scaring me due to the whole Covid 19 cant even get to see a doctor also have health anxiety which is helping the whole situation just wondering if this is normal and how long before you start to feel normal again


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here