Health officials have always been worried about teen smoking. Getting hooked on nicotine early in life makes it harder to quit later on and can lead to health problems down the road.
When e-cigarettes were introduced to the marketplace, they drew the same kind of concern, as statistics showed teens were among the early adopters. While there is no tobacco in an e-cigarette, there is nicotine, and health activists worried that teens who used the devices would gravitate to cigarettes later on.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently reported that teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than smoke tobacco. By eighth grade, it says only 3.6% had started smoking but 9.5% were using e-cigarettes. By 12th grade, it found more than 16% were using e-cigarettes.
But being a gateway to tobacco is not the only concern about these nicotine delivery systems. New research suggests even those who don't later start lighting up can be damaging their health by inhaling the nicotine-laden vapor.
Persistent cough and bronchitis
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) say they have found an association between e-cigarettes and development of a persistent cough, bronchitis, and congestion or phlegm in the young people who use them.
“E-cigarettes are known to deliver chemicals toxic to the lungs, including oxidant metals, glycerol vapor, diketone flavoring compounds and nicotine,” said lead author Dr. Rob McConnell. “However, there has been little study of the chronic health effects of e-cigarettes.”
The study compared kids who had used e-cigarettes to those who had never tried “vaping.” It found that young people who had used e-cigarettes in the past were 85% more likely to exhibit respiratory symptoms. Current users were twice as likely.
“The Food and Drug Administration recently banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 years of age, and California just prohibited sale to young adults under 21,” McConnell said. “Our results suggest that these regulations and an environment that discourages the initiation of any tobacco product may reduce the burden of chronic respiratory symptoms in youth.
But because e-cigarettes are relatively new, McConnell said he believes they need additional study so doctors can better understand their long-term effects.