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New Study Reveals Young E-Cigarette Users Develop Wheezing, Other Respiratory Symptoms

American Lung Association

News Release ALA 

February 8, 2022 


A new study funded by the American Lung Association reveals that young adults who used e-cigarettes were more likely to develop respiratory issues within one year of vaping. The study, titled, “Association of Electronic Cigarette Use with Respiratory Symptom Development among US Young Adults,” will be published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In the study, senior author Andrew Stokes, Ph.D., from Boston University School of Public Health found that participants who used e-cigarettes had greater incidence of self-reported respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, dry cough during sleeping and wheezing during exercise, within 12 months of use. These symptoms were reported regardless of former combustible cigarette use.

"The present study finds a significant prospective association of vaping with subsequent respiratory symptom development in a large, nationally representative cohort of young adults with no previous history of respiratory symptoms,” said Dr. Stokes. “This evidence highlights an urgent public health imperative for more robust regulatory standards at all levels of government to stop the youth vaping epidemic in its tracks."

Specifically, the study found that:

  • Current e-cigarette users had 
    • 32% greater odds of developing any respiratory symptom and 
    • 51% greater odds of developing wheezing in the chest. 
  • Former e-cigarette users had:  
    • 20% greater odds of developing any respiratory symptom and 
    • 41% greater odds of developing wheezing in the chest. 

“This study provides more evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful to the lungs and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to provide stronger public health protections from these products including removing all flavored products from the marketplace,” said Albert Rizzo, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. “This research adds further evidence that there is no safe e-cigarette and that vaping is harmful to your health.”

Additionally, the study reported that tobacco flavored e-cigarette users had 170% greater odds of developing any respiratory symptom compared to never users.

The Lung Association has called on the FDA to create a standard and define which chemicals should go into the tobacco flavored e-cigarettes. The organization recognizes that all flavors in e-cigarettes are additives and there is no “tobacco” flavor inherent in e-cigarettes.

This article used data from the PATH study (Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health), a longitudinal study tracking changes in tobacco use over time among participants. This article looked at young adults (aged 18-24 years) who were current or former e-cigarettes users and had no respiratory disease or symptoms prior to entering the study. 

Dr. Stokes is currently funded by the American Lung Association’s Public Policy Research Award, a new award empowering scientists to examine public policy issues that impact lung health. 

Learn more about the dangers of e-cigarettes at E-Cigarettes & Vaping | American Lung Association.

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