Vaping Associated With Wheezing in Adult Users

Large scale study finds adults who vape are more likely to experience breathing problems.
Jessica Miley

Despite many using e-cigarettes or vaping as a way to wean off cigarettes, a new study has shown their use to be associated with wheezing. People who vaped were twice as likely to wheeze than a person who used zero tobacco products, the study found. 


Wheezing which can be described as shortness of breath is caused by narrowed airways and may be a sign of future health ailments such as emphysema, gastroesophageal reflux disease, heart failure, lung cancer, and sleep apnea. The research is consistent with past studies that have found the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices damage lung cells by generating harmful free radicals and inflammation in lung tissue. 

E-cigarettes are not safe for lungs

“The take-home message is that electronic cigarettes are not safe when it comes to lung health,” says Deborah J. Ossip, a tobacco research expert, and professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “The changes we’re seeing with vaping, both in laboratory experiments and studies of people who vape, are consistent with early signs of lung damage, which is very worrisome.” 

E-cigarettes have become popular all over the world, but especially in the US where a recent study showed that 4 percent of the population used some form of e-cigarettes on a regular basis. Though significantly less harmful than a traditional cigarette, the long-term health effects of vaping and e-cigarettes are still unknown but concerning to health researchers. 

Wheezing and breathing issues highlighted

To determine their results, the researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center analyzed data from 28,000 adults in the United States who were participating in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study. The research team adjusted the data for age, gender, race/ethnicity, body mass index, secondhand smoke exposure, and other factors, they then concluded that adult vapers were 1.7 times more likely to experience wheezing or difficulty breathing compared to non-users. 

Lead author of the study Dongmei Li, Ph.D., said there were limitations to the study as the adults in the program self-reported their data which may introduce recall bias. The researchers are clear they are not saying that vaping causes wheezing, but rather there is an association between the two. 

Vaping on the rise in young people

Despite the studies possible bias, it's clear there are health concerns related to vaping. This is a serious notation, given that in 2018 vaping increased by 78 percent among ninth to 12th graders and 48 percent in sixth to eighth graders. 

Vaping products are easy to access and come in appealing packages and flavors that may also be contributing to this rise in the habit by young people The researchers are concerned that this increase in use by young people could lead to long term health problems in the future that includes allergies and loss of immunity.

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