People who smoke e-cigarettes face an increased risk of developing serious, chronic lung diseases such asthma, emphysema and bronchitis — particularly since many end up smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes at the same time, according to a new study.
Research published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine included 32,000 adults in the US — none of whom had any signs of lung disease when the study began in 2013.
Three years later, investigators found that those who used e-cigarettes were 30 percent more likely to have developed a chronic lung disease than those who did not.
“E-cigarette use predicted the development of lung disease over a very short period of time. It only took three years,” said Stanton Glantz, the study’s author, who added that some of the subjects also may have vaped products with THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, not just nicotine.
People who smoked regular cigarettes had a higher risk of developing chronic lung diseases than those who only smoked e-cigarettes, but the study also found that many adults who tried e-cigarettes ended up using both forms of tobacco.
The study found that people who smoke e-cigarettes as well as traditional tobacco more than triple their risk of developing chronic lung disease.
“Most adults who use e-cigarettes continue to smoke,” Glantz, of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education of the University of California, San Francisco, told NBC News.
“And if they do that, they get the risks of the smoking plus the risk of the e-cigarette,” he added.
The study adds to mounting evidence that vaping can cause physical harm, including chemical burns to the lungs, scarring from toxic metals, lung clogging from vitamin E oil and even damage from overheated batteries that explode.
Earlier studies identified a connection between e-cigarettes and lung disease at a single point in time, but experts hadn’t demonstrated long-term effects, Glantz said.
“They said there was no evidence of long-term effects. This study, looking at the general population over time, is starting to fill that hole,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The illnesses cited in the study are different from the recent increase in vaping-related illnesses, called EVALI — or e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported 2,409 cases in the US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The vast majority of cases involved vaping THC, and in many cases, counterfeit vapes were used, NBC News reported.
Producers and promoters of e-cigarettes, such as Juul Labs, often claim that their products — a mixture nicotine, glycerin and other chemicals that add flavor — are safer than traditional smoking.
“In the e-cigarette debate, it’s all about, ‘Is this better than that, or what if you switch,’” Glantz said. “For people who switched, their risks declined. But in the real world, most are dual users. They’re actually worse off than tobacco smokers.”
In September, the White House and the Food and Drug Administration warned that they could ban sales of popular flavored e-cigarette cartridges.
Flavored pods represent about 80 percent of San Franciso-based Juul’s US sales –and a federal prohibition could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Chronicle.