Vaping injuries raise risk of respiratory problems and other issues, study finds

Patients with E-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury found to have a high risk of developing chronic issues that persist for a year or more.

Patients with E-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI) commonly have significant long-term respiratory disability, cognitive impairment, symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and persistent vaping, researchers have found.

Those are the results from a recent study published in Annals of the American Thoracic Society. The Food and Drug Administration last week ordered Juul to pull its e-cigarettes off the shelves of U.S. stores.

One-year outcomes of 73 patients with EVALI were assessed to measure cognitive function, depression, anxiety, respiratory disability, COVID-19 infection, pulmonary function, and vaping behaviors.

The patients studied were treated at the Intermountain Healthcare or University of Utah Health and completed a 12-month follow up between July 20, 2020, and Aug. 15, 2020. The majority of patients were male with a mean age of 31.1.

At the 12-month follow-up, researchers found that 48% of patients had respiratory limitations, 59% of patients had anxiety and/or depression, 62% of patients had post-traumatic stress and 6.4% of patients reported a COVID-19 infection.

Patients also reported personal impacts of vaping injuries via the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey questions.

Survey responses indicated that 13% of patients were unable to work, 54% were still paying off healthcare bills, 24% experienced significant shortness of breath and 44% reported difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions due to a physical, mental or emotional condition.

Denitza Blagev, M.D., the principal investigator of the study, expressed concerns about the long-term residual effects at the American Thoracic Society Meeting in San Francisco in May.

“Considering that most patients enrolled in this trial were young and did not have any significant co-morbidities at the time of their diagnosis, it’s really concerning,” Blagev said.

Despite the continued health impacts, 62% of patients continued to vape or smoke.

However, younger age was associated with reduced vaping behavior post-EVALI. Dr. Blagev suggests that this points to the importance of targeted outreach for young people who continue to vape.

Preliminary data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control shows electronic cigarette use among teens continues to rise.

Roughly five million teens report vaping within the past month, including 11.3% of high school students and 2.8% of middle school students.

Dr. Blagev encourages intervention by raising awareness and implementing policies to reduce vaping among young people, with a focus on mental health issues.

Campaigns should include education on the dangers of tobacco use, vaping and the continued impact of vaping injuries, despite the removal of vitamin-E acetate, an additive associated with lung injuries, from vaping products.