Dave & Dujanovic: Study finds more evidence vaping, e-cigs are bad for your health

Jun 14, 2021, 6:27 PM
vaping study...
Vape teenager. Young white girl smoking an electronic cigarette. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — A study done by researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City found that patients who experience an E-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) can suffer from cognitive impairment and symptoms more than a year later.

Dr. Denitza Blagev, pulmonary physician and researcher with Intermountain Healthcare who participated in the vaping study, joins Debbie Dujanovic and Ethan Millard, host of the Nightside Project podcast, to discuss the study’s findings.

“This study is fascinating, and I think this is going to be a topic of a lot of kitchen tables tonight at dinner. Tell us what you found in the patients that you examined,” Debbie said.

“We looked at patients more than a year after their acute lung injury, the e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury, and found that a significant proportion — so 39% of them — had mild cognitive impairment,” Blagev said. “The average age is 31 [of patients in the vaping study], so really concerning to have lifelong consequences, potentially for these young people.”

Not just on the black market

“We’ve seen in the past problems with vaping associated with black market or unregulated products. Poor quality will cause big problems. Is there also risk of this type of injury when someone is using mainstream, clean products for vaping?” Millard asked.

“Yes. That is a really great question because we first identified EVALI as a thing back in the summer and fall of 2019. That was an outbreak associated with the vitamin D acetate, largely in THC e-cigarettes. 

“After that got cleaned up and with COVID, I think most everyone just thought, ‘Oh, that’s not a thing anymore. We don’t have to worry about that.’ But in fact, we have continued to see patients coming in with EVALI in the hospital. So even just using nicotine e-cigarettes or THC e-cigarettes that do not contain vitamin D acetate, it is an ongoing problem,” Blagev said.

The Intermountain vaping study also found:

  • 15 percent of the patients have severe trouble breathing (stopping for breath after walking 100 yards or a few minutes on ground level or too breathless to leave the house or breathless when dressing)
  • 39 percent of the patients have mild cognitive impairment
  • 57 percent of the patients have anxiety
  • 34 percent of the patients have depression
  • 2 to 3 percent of the patients tested positive for COVID-19

“Really quite concerning that once you’ve “recovered” from that acute lung injury, there’s still long-term consequences,” Blagev said.

Vaping is not safer than tobacco

“I feel bad for smokers who are looking at the vaping as a way to set aside cigarettes,” Millard said. “I know a couple of people who vape now. They had previously been very, very into cigarettes. It must be frustrating for them . . . They just took one really dangerous item and replaced it with something else and [it] still carries some risk.”

“Yeah, we definitely see that,” Blagev said. “I think for people that smoke that’s a really, really difficult thing to quit. There are proven methods for that. We’re learning, increasingly, that vaping is not safe.”

“I heard a story that said the FDA still hasn’t regulated vape pens and vape devices. These are still unregulated?” Debbie asked.

“In the United Kingdom where the nicotine level in e-cigarettes is regulated, they’re seeing a lot more success in terms of using vaping as tobacco cessation,” Blagev said. “But here, the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes is completely unregulated and can be much, much higher than the nicotine in regular cigarettes. The nicotine is what gets kids addicted.”


Other Reading:

Vaping-related lung illness extends to depression and anxiety

US adult smoking rate looks unchanged, vaping rate higher

Big drop reported in vaping by US teenagers

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Dave & Dujanovic: Study finds more evidence vaping, e-cigs are bad for your health