E-Cigarette Respiratory Risks Identified in Study Among Adolecents Who Vape

Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to experience respiratory problems, according to the findings of a new study that raises further concerns about the increasing popularity of “vaping”. 

In a letter published earlier this month by the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, Chinese researchers indicate that adolescents who used e-cigarettes were 30% more likely to report respiratory symptoms, such as a couch or phlegm, than those who do not use the battery-powered vaping devices, which are seen as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The respiratory risk with e-cigarettes increased depending on if the teens also smoked traditional cigarettes, according to the findings.

Did You Know?

Millions of Philips CPAP Machines Recalled

Philips DreamStation, CPAP and BiPAP machines sold in recent years may pose a risk of cancer, lung damage and other injuries.

Learn More

Adolescents in junior high and high school were surveyed using a questionnaire based on the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Student participation was voluntary and parental consent was given. More than 45,000 students responses were analyzed from 75 randomly selected schools in Hong Kong from 2012 to 2013.

Researchers found an increased risk of respiratory symptoms was associated with e-cigarette use. Additionally, the study revealed teens who did not smoke traditional cigarettes, but used e-cigarettes, were twice as likely to report respiratory symptoms than teens who did not use e-cigarettes.

Students were classified into many categories, including never having smoked, experimenting with smoking once or a few times, being ex-smokers in the past but not smoking now, being current smokers, using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, and those who had respiratory problems for three consecutive months in the past year.

The risk of respiratory problems was even higher for teens who used both types of cigarettes. Students who used e-cigarettes and smoked traditional cigarettes at any point were 40 percent more likely to have breathing problems compared to those who didn’t use e-cigarettes.

The findings of the study come amid increasing concern over teen vaping habits, as use of e-cigarettes has increased rapidly over the past five years.

The CDC indicates that rates of teen e-cigarette use tripled from 2011 to 2013. Despite a decrease in teen use of traditional cigarettes, rates of teen e-cigarette use tripled again from 2013 to 2014.

Another recent study revealed teens are able to skirt age regulations to buy e-cigarettes online when they are unable to do so in person. The study found the majority of teens who attempted to buy online were successful.

E-cigarette Risks

Lead author Dr. Daniel Ho, of the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, explained in the research letter short-term respiratory side effects and inflammation have been documented in adults who have used e-cigarettes. However, there have been no studies on adolescents and children are particularly vulnerable to respiratory pollutants.

The primary ingredients of e-cigarette liquid are propylene glycol and flavoring chemicals, including diacetyl, a chemical linked to “popcorn lung” disease or bronchiolitis obliterans among industrial workers exposed to high levels. Critics say these chemicals give e-cigarettes the high appeal to teens, creating the fruity candy-like flavor. They are also known respiratory irritants.

“Well-documented respiratory toxicants, such as particulate matters, volatile organic compounds, and metals, were found in e-cigarette aerosol, although in lower concentrations than conventional cigarettes,” wrote Ho.

Late last year, a one-year old child was found dead after ingesting the liquid nicotine solution used in e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette liquid is appealing to small children and especially lethal. More than 1,500 reports of liquid nicotine poisoning involving children were reported to safety officials last year, doubling the number of reports from 2013.

In the recent study, the number of teens who suffered respiratory symptoms and used e-cigarettes was 20% higher than teens who had never smoked or used the electronic smoking devices.

Other research reveals one out of every three parents who use e-cigarettes may expose their children to the risk of injury or death because of improperly stored liquid nicotine containers without childproof caps.

Researchers say the findings cannot prove cause and effect between the e-cigarettes and breathing problems, but it does reveal a link. Another study published in May linked lung damage to e-cigarette use during a study that involved mice. The high concentrations of nicotine in both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid caused lung damage and prevented cell reproduction.

Many groups have called for increased oversight for e-cigarettes, including consumer advocate groups, legislators and health organizations. Researchers say the findings support the need for the increased regulation.


  • AngelNovember 12, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Because they were ALREADY smokers. There's no way to prove vaping CAUSES diseases we already KNOW smoking causes in ex SMOKERS, including the teenagers most smokers start as. You have no way of knowing that vaping caused anything, and PLENTY of evidence as far as smoking goes. Smoking. Remember THAT?

"*" indicates required fields

Share Your Comments

I authorize the above comments be posted on this page*

Have Your Comments Reviewed by a Lawyer

Provide additional contact information if you want an attorney to review your comments and contact you about a potential case. This information will not be published.

NOTE: Providing information for review by an attorney does not form an attorney-client relationship.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.