Link Between Smoking and Inflammation Identified

November 3, 2016
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Researchers have identified how smoking leads to an immune response and increased inflammation.

Time and again, smoking has been condemned as one of the worst habits a person can have. As a dentist, you might have had numerous conversations with your patients about the risks of smoking and the damage it causes not only to the lungs, but also to the mouth and teeth. Now, there’s new information you can put in your anti-smoking arsenal.

According to a recent press release, researchers have actually identified smoking’s effects within the body and how those effects are related to increased inflammation. The research has been able to show that nicotine, the addictive ingredient in both traditional cigarettes and newer e-cigarettes, causes an inflammatory response in the body by activating certain white bloods cells called neutrophils.

Once activated, neutrophils release specific cellular signals that begin to regulate the body’s immune response. In the early part of the immune response, inflammation occurs. In this study, researchers used isolated neutrophils from humans and mice. They stimulated the neutrophils in order to measure dose-dependent releases of certain inflammatory molecules. Ultimately, the researchers were able to identify essential receptor and signaling pathways that have been shown to be involved in the nicotine-mediated activation of the neutrophils.

As E. John Wherry, PhD and Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology said in a statement, “The cancer-causing effects of smoking have been known for decades, but how smoking is related to immune changes has been less clear. Because of the direct link between nicotine itself and inflammation, this study has important implications including that alternative forms of nicotine inhalation, such as vaping that lacks other chemicals from cigarette smoke, may nonetheless still have detrimental immunological effects.”

As Dentist’s Money Digest reported previously, several companies have portrayed e-cigarettes as a safer, less addictive way for people to smoke, with some going so far as to say that these products can actually help people stop smoking altogether. Patient education is critically important regarding these products, and this new research, together with previous studies related to e-cigarettes, is one more tool you can use to have open, honest conversations in your practice about the risks of using nicotine and nicotine-related products.

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