New York, USA.— When teens vape, their lungs pay the price, researchers report.
The warning stems from a detailed analysis of smoking histories, which more than 2,000 U.S. teens shared in the most recent series of annual surveys.
Most importantly, those teens who had used e-cigarettes in the month before the survey reported about 80 percent more symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath compared with teens who had never vaped.
E-cigarette users also doubled the risk of developing bronchitis, the survey showed. Most of the respiratory health outcomes associated with vaping persisted even after accounting for whether teens also smoked cigarettes or marijuana.
Alayna Tackett, lead author of the study, said: “While e-cigarettes may have fewer negative health effects than conventional cigarettes, they are not without risk, especially for those who have never used any other tobacco products. adolescents or young adults,” says a pediatric psychologist and researcher at the Center for Tobacco Research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.
Tuckert and colleagues looked at the effects of vaping on respiratory health by looking at a four-year survey conducted between 2014 and 2018 by the Southern California Children’s Health Study.
On average, about 1,700 teens participated in the annual survey, but the final analysis focused on about 21,000 teens, split evenly between boys and girls, with an average age of 17.
Every year, teens are asked to indicate their use of e-cigarettes versus traditional cigarettes. (Marijuana was also tested, but only in 2017 and 2018.) The teens were also asked about some key lung complications.
These included wheezing the year before the survey, and shortness of breath when sprinting or going uphill. Bronchitis diagnosed within the past 12 months, or symptoms suggestive of bronchitis, including congestion or sputum in the absence of a cold, or daily cough for three consecutive months were also recorded.
E-cigarette use among respondents increased from 12% to 16% over the four-year study period.
The percentage of teens reporting symptoms of bronchitis also increased during the study period, from about 20 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2018.
Ultimately, the researchers determined that 81 percent and 78 percent of the most frequent vapers reported symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath, respectively. E-cigarette users were also twice as likely to deal with bronchitis-related problems.
But do some of the lung risks posed by vaping actually stem from other factors, such as smoking, marijuana use, regular exposure to secondhand smoke, or chronic asthma?
It seems not. Taking all of these factors into account, the team determined that while the direct link between vaping and respiratory risk was “slightly” less strong, it was still “significant.” The only exception was wheezing: the risk of this condition no longer appeared to be directly increased by vaping.
Tuckert and his colleagues report their findings in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Thorax.
The researchers do stress that these findings are based only on self-reported observations and therefore cannot be considered definitive evidence that vaping harms lung health.
Gregory Conley, spokesman for the American Vapor Manufacturers Association, agreed.
“The reliance on self-reported data and lack of control for the variables examined limits the conclusions that can be drawn,” Conley emphasized. “Correlation does not equal causation, and more rigorous studies are needed to establish the link between vaping and breathing problems.” Make a clear connection.”
Until then, it is “too early to conclude that vaping products actually cause harm because of the potential confounding factors and conflicting literature involved,” he added.
Even so, Tuckett said, “E-cigarette aerosols are known to contain substances that are harmful to the lungs, including flavors and oxidized metals with known lung toxicity.” The health threat vaping poses as e-cigarettes enter the mainstream market so quickly.
On the other hand, “the regulation of these (vaping) products must be carefully considered to balance the potential benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential smoking cessation tool against the health risks, especially for younger users,” Tuckert said.
Aruni Bhatnagar, co-director of the American Heart Association’s Center for Tobacco Regulatory Science and principal investigator of the Tobacco Use-Induced Cardiovascular Injury Project, echoed this sentiment.
“From a regulatory perspective, it may be important to identify harmful or potentially harmful substances in e-cigarettes,” he observed. “And minimize the content or production in e-cigarettes to reduce respiratory toxicity and irritation caused by e-cigarettes.”
In the meantime, when it comes to protecting teens’ lung health, “the most effective solution is to stop vaping altogether,” Bhatnagar suggested.
“While vaping products reduce harm for smokers so much that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain vaping products as appropriate for public health, they are not without risks and young people should not use them,” he stressed.
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