E-cigarette Use Associated With Lung Disease in Young Adults

E-cigarette use has become popular with youth, and the health risks of these products have not been fully elucidated. This nationally representative, population-based, longitudinal study examined the association between respiratory symptoms and the use of e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes among young adults aged 18–24 with no prior history of respiratory disease (N=6378).

  • There were no differences in the rates of reported respiratory symptoms between people who used combustible cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or both; all were more likely to report respiratory symptoms than those without use of either.
  • Compared with people who never used combustible or e-cigarettes, people with e-cigarette use were more likely to report wheezing in the chest (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.23) and wheezing during exercise (aOR, 2.41).

Comments: E-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm-reduction strategy for people with combustible cigarette use and marketed as safer because the exposure to “harmful or potentially harmful chemicals” (HPHC), as defined by the Food and Drug Administration, is much lower than from combustible cigarettes. This research adds to a growing evidence base that e-cigarette use causes exposure to chemicals that injure lung tissue, even though they are not defined as HPHCs. The public should be aware that although there may be a harm-reduction role for e-cigarettes for people with combustible cigarette use, they present a serious health risk for adolescents and people who do not have combustible cigarette use.

Sharon Levy, MD

Reference: Xie W, Tackett AP, Berlowitz JB, et al.  Association of electronic cigarette use with respiratory symptom development among US young adults. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2022;10.1164/rccm.202107-1718OC.

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