Our scientists have carried out many innovative lab tests to assess the effects of eCigarette vapour vs cigarette smoke. In some tests, vapour has been found to have a very small effect on lung cells, while in others it is virtually indistinguishable from ordinary air. This suggests vapour could be much less harmful to us than smoke. But there’s a niggle – are these findings too good to be true?
To be rigorous in our testing, we had to ask ourselves if our results could be wrong due to the vapour somehow being lost during the experiment. Has it leaked out of the apparatus? Is it not reaching the cells we’re testing? To be absolutely sure that our test results were valid, we analysed the test itself.
The experiments concerned involve using a ‘lung in a lab’, a piece of kit our scientists have developed to help us assess the impact of vapour on the health of lung cells. A vaping device is placed in a sealed container connected to our vaping robot – an artificial diaphragm that draws on the device, much like a vaper does, producing the aerosol needed for testing. The vapour is then funneled into an exposure chamber, a solid Perspex box containing human lung cells or tissue for testing. When a person vapes, the inhaled air is drawn into and distributed around their lungs. In the same way, a distributor plate in the exposure chamber makes sure the vapour is distributed evenly across the cells.
Now, proving that vapour is actually reaching the chamber is very tricky: imagine trying to measure something you can’t ordinarily hear, see or feel. Our solution was to put microbalances inside the chamber. These are tiny weighing scales that are sensitive enough to measure the weight (in micrograms) of any vapour droplets. They can even measure the weight of a breath of air. If no vapour arrives, the scales will tell us.
Using these microbalances and testing the system with our ePen, we have proven that consistent doses of vapour are definitely reaching the exposure chamber during our experiments. So we can be sure the results from our vaping robot are bona fide, and that our testing procedures are robust.