E-cigarettes could lead to serious, long-term lung damage, lung specialist says lluh news

The rapid rise in electronic cigarettes use by teenagers has caused the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider banning selling the devices to minors, raising the concern of safety for young users. There is still a need for research to better understand the adverse effects these devices have on the body, but many studies have already shown numerous long-term, avoidable health risks.

Because of this lack of regulation and being relatively new to the market — 2006 in Europe and 2007 in USA — Tan says the conclusive evidence needed is still being collected.Tan says there is currently a shortage of information on the devices. Although the data is still out on many independent studies, is it thought by some users that e-cigarettes may not be as harmful as regular cigarettes.

However, they are still very unhealthy to the lungs, Tan says.

A recent publication by the CDC noted that the metal component necessary for e-cigarettes to work — which heats up the liquid and changes to a vapor state — release small particles of metal along with the vapor. These metal particles are usually from heavy metals, such as nickel, tin or lead. When inhaled, these metals damage lung tissue and lower the body’s natural resistance to infections and cancers, according to the CDC.

“The plume of smoke caused by vaping is substantially larger than one of smoke caused by cigarettes, leading us to believe that even more nicotine is being consumed per puff,” Tan says. Because the smoke from cigarettes is due to combustion, the user is not able to inhale as great an amount due to toxic chemicals produced from the combustion process.

The use of vaporizers can be a gateway for teens to start smoking regular cigarettes, say officials from the American Thoracic Society. Also, young people who become initiated to nicotine addiction with these devices are more likely to go on to use of other tobacco products. Tan says smoking can be more harmful to younger people because their bodies are still developing. “Lungs are still developing until the early to mid-20s,” Tan says.

Another daunting concern is that companies selling these e-cigarette products are not FDA approved and are therefore not required to meet any FDA regulations. “If young teens are addicted early in life to vaping, especially flavored vapes with diacetyl, they are likely to set themselves up for the formation or worsening of chronic respiratory problems,” Tan says. Without regulations and requirements, there are less systems in place to protect the consumer.

Tan says those consistently coughing, who have greater mucus production, or issues with breathing might be showing signs of a lung injury. These symptoms can also worsen underlying respiratory problems. ‘Those that are experiencing these symptoms while smoking e-cigarettes should stop immediately and be checked out by your physician, who can determine if testing or more specialized care is necessary.”

If you are interested in learning more about how you or a loved one can receive treatment for respiratory problems, or other health problems, schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor online, through MyChart or by calling 909-558-6600. Additionally, you may contact Loma Linda University Comprehensive Program for Obstructive Airway Diseases at 909-558-8097.