As the makers of e-cigarettes face increased scrutiny over a growing number of reports involving teens and young adults who have become addicted to nicotine and suffered other harm from vaping, a new study warns that side effects of e-cigarettes may increase users’ risk of chronic respiratory disease. According to the study, conducted by researchers from the Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco and published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, respiratory disease from e-cigarette use can develop fairly quickly and may lead to bronchitis, asthma and other breathing problems.
E-cigarettes are commonly promoted as an alternative to combustible tobacco cigarettes, but the devices have come under fire recently for fueling the teen vaping epidemic in the United States. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that work by heating liquid nicotine and converting it into a vapor that the user then inhales. E-cigarette devices do not contain all of the harmful substances that make traditional cigarettes so toxic, such as tobacco and tar, and have been aggressively marketed in recent years as a safer and healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, some three to four times more nicotine than cigarettes, which may increase the risk of nicotine addiction, especially among young people. In fact, many people use e-cigarettes as a means of smoking cessation but rather than quitting, end up utilizing both products instead.
With the extraordinary growth e-cigarettes and other vaping devices have seen over the past 10 years, researchers have amplified their efforts to determine how e-cigarette use affects health and this study is the first of its kind to analyze the long-term health effects of vaping and the potential link between e-cigarette use and respiratory disease. The longitudinal analysis was conducted using data from Waves 1, 2 and 3 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, a national longitudinal study of tobacco use and how it affects the health of people throughout the United States. The study looks at e-cigarette users and smokers in the first wave of the PATH assessment who did not report respiratory disease and then follows up with the same individuals to see if they developed respiratory diseases in the subsequent waves. The data was collected from 2013 to 2016 and analyzed from 2018 to 2019.
According to the study findings, while current and former e-cigarette users were 1.3 times more likely to suffer from chronic respiratory disease, tobacco smokers increased their risk by a factor of 2.6. And those involved in the study who used both e-cigarettes and combustible tobacco cigarettes together were more than three times more likely to suffer from respiratory problems like emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and chronic bronchitis. “Dual users – the most common use pattern among people who use e-cigarettes – get the combined risk of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, so they’re actually worse off than tobacco smokers,” said study author Stanton A. Glantz.
These findings come amid increasing concerns about the growing use of e-cigarettes in the U.S., particularly among teens and young adults, many of whom are now facing a lifelong addiction to nicotine due to vaping. Thanks to the popularity of vape pens like JUUL, which have been aggressively marketed to teens and prior non-smokers as “safe” and as a healthier alternative to smoking, there is now a new generation of teens addicted to JUUL and other e-cigarette devices. As a result, a growing number of lawsuits are being pursued against JUUL, alleging that the company illegally marketed its products to kids while failing to warn about the potential health risks associated with vaping. In addition to the risk of nicotine addiction, e-cigarettes have also been linked to an outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, which have impacted more than 2,400 people across the country and resulted in at least 50 deaths, although the culprit in the outbreak appears to be THC vaping products containing vitamin E oils.
In this latest study, the researchers found that “Use of e-cigarettes is an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to combustible tobacco smoking. Dual use, the most common use pattern, is riskier than using either product alone.” They also noted that “Although switching from combustible tobacco, including cigarettes, to e-cigarettes theoretically could reduce the risk of developing respiratory disease, current evidence indicates a high prevalence of dual use, which is associated with increased risk beyond combustible tobacco use.” Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that “e-cigarettes should not be recommended.”