As the scientific understanding and awareness of the detrimental effects smoking tobacco has on the lungs has grown, it has concurrently led to an increase in cigarette substitutes in order to curb cravings and beat addiction. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 7 million deaths a year worldwide are due to direct tobacco use, amounting to a significant economic burden to society. Several nicotine replacement therapy options available are; nicotine patches, electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) and nicotine gum, many of which can prove successful for people trying to quit smoking.

The demand for these seemingly less harmful alternatives is on the rise, however little long-term research has investigated the effects of these E-cigarettes due to their recent entrance on the market. While the physical habit of smoking the E-cigarette and the nicotine can help break the habit of the smoking tobacco cigarettes, the full health implications are not yet fully understood.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2% of US adults were reported to have used E-cigarettes in 2018 and similarly, according to The Office of National Statistics, 6.3% of the general population over 16 are reported to have used E-cigarettes in the UK. These high rates of use could have potential health implications later in life.

Due to increased multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarettes, the CDC organisation in the US have announced an investigation into the side effects and the negative health implication of vaping. There have been 26 deaths and 1,299 lung injury cases having been confirmed in the US, with patients having all reported a history of e-cigarette usage. As well as a recent case series of 34 patients admitted with severe pulmonary disease, associated with the use of e-cigarette among young healthy persons in the USA. There was no definite conclusion as to whether vaping is causing the severe pulmonary disease, however, clinical finding suggests a similar pathophysiological mechanism of lung injury such as the E-cigarette usage. 1

It is advised to only purchase from authorised retailers, and only by adults attempting to quit. It is understood that there are health benefits of swapping tobacco cigarettes for E-cigarettes as it is less detrimental than traditional cigarettes, but that they are not without their health implications.

Reference

Layden, J,.et al (2019) ‘Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin — Preliminary Report’, The New England Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1911614

Sophie Teuber

Healthcare Analyst