Up in Smoke: The Downside of E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes have become a popular item in recent years; consider that in North America alone, the e-cigarette market reached a value of US$ 5.7 Billion in 2018. Unfortunately, it appears that smoking electronic cigarettes isn’t a risk-free habit.

Going Down the Wrong Path

The health impact of electronic cigarettes was the subject of a recent study by University of California San Francisco. Published in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine, this report was based on data collected by the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study from the years 2013 to 2016. Thanks to this source, the authors had access to the lung health records of over 32,000 adults. 

The authors narrowed their focus on subjects who, at the start of the study, did not have a history of lung disease. These adults were followed for a period of three years, with the authors documenting both their smoking habits and lung health. 

The results don’t make for pleasant reading for tobacco users:

  • Compared to non-smokers, current and former e-cigarette users were 30 percent more at risk of developing chronic lung disease.
  • Likewise, conventional tobacco smokers were 2.6 times likelier to develop this condition.
  • Those who consumed both tobacco and electronic cigarettes were three times as likely to be diagnosed with lung disease.

A Bad Combination

In a press release detailing the study’s findings, senior author Stanton Glantz noted that “what we found is that for e-cigarette users, the odds of developing lung disease increased by about a third, even after controlling for their tobacco use and their clinical and demographic information. We concluded that e-cigarettes are harmful on their own, and the effects are independent of smoking conventional tobacco.” 

The news isn’t all bad for e-cigarette lovers – adults who quit smoking tobacco in favor of their electronic substitutes were less likely to develop lung disease over the course of the observation period. Unfortunately, this was not an especially common occurrence. “For most smokers, they simply add e-cigarettes and become dual users, significantly increasing their risk of developing lung disease above just smoking,” stated Glantz.

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