Healthy non-smokers who vape long term may be at risk of developing lung diseases ranging from asthma to COPD, according to a new study from Boston University School of Medicine. The researchers evaluated the potential vaping risk in healthy people, adjusting for other potential risk factors like past cigarette and cannabis smoking, secondhand smoke exposure, and more.
Vaping is presented as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but public health experts have long encouraged a change in perspective: that vaping is potentially less harmful that smoking. However, a growing body of research has linked vaping to potential health issues, including everything from gum inflammation to wheezing and more.
The researchers behind this latest study point out that many past studies on vaping’s potential health risk focused on cell and animal models. In cases where humans were the subject, the studies were often short in nature and focused on acute, not chronic, conditions.
The potential issue with evaluating vaping risk is that many people who vape first started with cigarettes, later transitioning to electronic cigarettes. This transition, in some cases, was spurred by the development of a health concern linked to cigarette smoking, such as lung disease. What about healthy people who never used tobacco?
This new study pulled data on more than 21,000 healthy adults from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH). Only healthy participants who didn’t report any lung health problems were included. Beyond that, the study adjusted for factors like marijuana and tobacco use and both past and present secondhand smoke exposure.
Current electronic cigarette users were found to face a 43-percent spike in respiratory disease risk whereas former vapers faced a 21-percent increase. When looking at specific diseases, vaping represented a 69-percent boost in emphysema risk, 57-percent risk in COPD, 33-percent increase in chronic bronchitis risk, and a 31-percent increase in asthma risk.
The study’s lead author Wubin Xie explained:
“With a longitudinal study design and extensive sensitivity analyses, the study adds to a growing body of evidence indicating long-term health risks of e-cigarette use to the respiratory system.”
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