Scientists find adverse pulmonary health effects associated with vaping
BALTIMORE, U.S: Scientists investigating the potential health effects of vaping on the human pulmonary system have reported that inhaling vapor from electronic cigarettes was linked to increased odds of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), conditions known to be caused by smoking traditional cigarettes. Additionally, both smoking and vaping were found to increase the odds of developing COPD sixfold compared with people who refrained from using any tobacco products.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma affects an estimated 25 million Americans, and health information provider Healthline reports that COPD affects some 16 million Americans. Smoking is believed to trigger both diseases, and the World Health Organization says that rates of asthma and COPD are rising worldwide.
In two recent studies, researchers investigated both conditions in relation to e-cigarette use, employing data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a large federal government telephone survey of adults. The first study included 402,822 people who were nonsmokers of combustible cigarettes (defined as having smoked fewer than 100 in their lifetimes). Of these, 3,103 reported using e-cigarettes and 34,074 reported having asthma.
“Although e-cigarettes may turn out to be safer overall than traditional combustible cigarettes, our studies add to growing evidence that they carry health risks,” said Dr. Michael Blaha, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSM). “These studies are the first in a series of larger and long-term studies that will more definitively provide evidence to inform tobacco users and regulators,” he continued.
Among those who smoked e-cigarettes, almost 11% reported having asthma, compared with 8% of those who had never used e-cigarettes. Current e-cigarette users were 39% more likely to report having asthma, while occasional and daily e-cigarette users were 31% and 73%, respectively, more likely to report having asthma compared with nonusers of e-cigarettes.
In the second study, out of more than 700,000 interviewees, about 61% reported never having smoked a cigarette, about 9% were current smokers, and 30% were former smokers. Additionally, more than 3% said that they currently used e-cigarettes, and 2% said that they used both e-cigarettes and smoked.
Of those who said that they used e-cigarettes, about 11.0% reported having chronic bronchitis, emphysema or COPD, compared with 5.6% of people who said that they had never used e-cigarettes. Furthermore, current e-cigarette users were 75% more likely to report having COPD, compared with those who had never smoked. Those who both vaped and smoked were almost six times more likely to report having COPD, compared with those who had never used either, whereas just smoking combustible cigarettes alone increased the odds by three times.
“As a physician, I am most worried about those who use both e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes because they may end up taking in the most nicotine, which may do the most damage,” said lead author Dr. Albert Osei, a postdoctoral fellow at JHUSM. “Through public health campaigns, we finally had smoking levels down in some populations, but now with the current vaping epidemic, I foresee a whole new previously tobacco-naive, young generation becoming dependent on nicotine if we do not intensify public health education efforts.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 16 million people in the U.S. who have COPD, 38% still smoke.
The first study, titled “The association between e-cigarette use and asthma among never combustible cigarette smokers: Behavioral risk factor surveillance system (BRFSS) 2016 and 2017,” was published online on Oct. 16, 2019, in BMC Pulmonary Medicine.
The more recent study, titled “Association between e-cigarette use and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by smoking status: Behavioral risk factor surveillance system 2016 and 2017,” was published online on Jan. 1, 2020, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.