Vaping Doubles Risk of Lung Problems in Teens: Study

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Aug. 16, 2023 – Teens who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to report lung problems like wheezing, shortness of breath, or bronchitis, compared to those who don’t use the devices, according to a new study.

E-cigarettes are known to contain flavorings and chemical compounds that can damage the lungs, and an estimated 14% of U.S. youths use them. The resulting study included teams from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“This study contributes to emerging evidence from human and toxicological studies that e-cigarettes cause respiratory symptoms that warrant consideration in regulation of e-cigarettes,” the researchers concluded.

In 2019, the federal government raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

The new study was published this week in the journal Thorax. Once per year in 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018, people who were part of the study completed a questionnaire that asked about e-cigarette and marijuana use during the past 30 days, and also asked about respiratory symptoms. The 2014 questionnaire was completed by nearly 2,100 people in 11th and 12th grades whose average age was 17 years old. Follow-up questionnaires were completed each year by between 1,600 and 1,500 of the people in the study.

The questionnaire asked about the following symptoms: wheezing, signs of bronchitis, and shortness of breath. Wheezing was defined as reporting a wheezing or whistling in the chest in the previous 12 months. Bronchitis was defined as reporting a daily cough for 3 months straight, or a bronchitis diagnosis in the previous 12 months, or congestion or phlegm not linked to a cold. Shortness of breath was considered a condition if someone said they were troubled by shortness of breath when hurrying on level ground or walking up a slight hill.

The researchers found that the symptoms were linked to e-cigarette use regardless of whether the people in the study also reported exposure to secondhand smoke or using other tobacco products or marijuana.

The study had several limitations, including self-reporting, no measurement for how much someone vaped, and data challenges because not all questions were asked during each of the four annual questionnaires.