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TUESDAY, Jan. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Lung illnesses and deaths from vaping have been grabbing headlines for months, and now two new studies offer fresh evidence pointing to long-term respiratory concerns.
"These studies add to the body of evidence on the relationship between electronic cigarette use and lung conditions," said Dr. Albert Osei, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He's lead author of a study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The studies cannot definitely prove a cause-and-effect link, he noted, adding: "We believe this warrants further longitudinal studies."
Introduced to the U.S. market more than a decade ago, e-cigarettes are marketed as less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and as a way to help quit smoking. In 2016, almost 11 million American adults used e-cigarettes.
Past studies have suggested the vapor may irritate airway cells, impair their ability to fight infection, and lead to destruction of lung tissue. A study just published in December found that e-cigarette users are also at significantly higher risk of chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.
Vaping been linked to a nationwide outbreak of serious lung illness. As of Jan. 7, there have been more than 2,600 illnesses and 57 deaths -- many linked to vaping products with THC, the component in marijuana that produces a high. An additive called Vitamin E acetate that makes the THC last longer may be the culprit, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Osei's study looked at a database of more than 705,000 adults.
Almost 65,000 smoked regular cigarettes. More than 25,000 smoked e-cigarettes; their average age: 30 to 34. More than 200,000 were former traditional smokers.
In people who had never smoked regular cigarettes, e-cigarette use was associated with 75% higher odds of COPD, the study found. Daily users of e-cigarettes had 2.6 times higher odds of COPD than people who never smoked regular cigarettes.
The second study -- published recently in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine -- included more than 400,000 adults who never smoked regular cigarettes. More than 34,000 had asthma. Just 3,100 people currently used e-cigarettes. Their average age: 18 to 24.
Like Osei, the head of a pro-vaping advocacy group noted that these studies don't prove that e-cigarettes was responsible for either condition.
"There is no plausible mechanism by which vaping, which exposes users to far fewer toxins than cigarette smoking, could cause COPD in a period of a few years," he said. "Even among heavy smokers, several decades are required for COPD to develop."
Dr. Len Horovitz is a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who also reviewed the findings.
Study author Osei agreed, pointing out that both combustible and e-cigarettes contain nicotine.
"The majority of people using electronic cigarettes are young people. Over time, we will have a generation who becomes nicotine-dependent from using electronic cigarettes," Osei said. "As a public health physician, I cannot say that electronic cigarettes are without risk."
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