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UK Nursing Study Links Persistent Cough to E-Cigarette Use among College Students

A new study by researchers in the University of Kentucky College of Nursing shows correlations between use of  electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and persistent cough among college students. ENDS include electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and JUULS.

Published in Addictive Behaviors, the UK-funded pilot study surveyed 61 UK students about their tobacco and e-cig use, and if they had experienced respiratory symptoms such as a persistent cough. Even when controlling for traditional cigarette and marijuana use among participants, the study found a greater likelihood of persistent cough among ENDS users.

“College students are curious,” said Kristin Ashford, UK College of Nursing professor and principal investigator of the project. “When new products emerge, students often try them without having adequate data regarding product safety.”

Ashford, along with UK Perinatal Research and Wellness Center Assistant Director Andrea McCubbin, highlight that the findings from this study further support research showing the misperceptions that college students have about the safety of ENDS.

“As ENDS products, including JUUL, emerged in the U.S., many students believed they were less harmful than traditional cigarettes,” McCubbin said. “Creative marketing highlighted the appealing flavors of ENDS liquid, overshadowing the highly addictive nicotine content.”

“This study shows that ENDS users are at more risk for persistent cough than non-ENDS users,” Ashford said. “They exhibit a dysregulated salivary immune function which may increase their risk for respiratory infection.”

The study opens the door for future research examining the potential long-term effects of ENDs use among college students. The idea for this work originated from Kylie Dougherty (’19) a College of Nursing undergraduate research intern.

“This work can truly serve as a launching board for additional future research to be done,” said Ashford. “It is important that we continue to raise awareness around this important topic.”

Emily Domer/University of Kentucky