E-Cigarette Users Who Also Smoke Experience More Respiratory Symptoms Than Conventional Smokers

Smokers who also use e-cigarettes experience more common respiratory symptoms than conventional smokers, according to materials provided by the European Lung Foundation and presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress. Two different studies explain the reported risks associated with e-cigarettes, and many are finding the reports surprising.

The first study examined 122 commonly sold e-cigarettes in Europe. The researchers discovered that every single one of the e-cigarette liquids they tested contained at least one substance known to pose risks to human health.

The second study involved surveying over 30,000 people living in Sweden. The study found that people who smoke e-cigarettes as well as conventional cigarettes are more likely to experience more respiratory symptoms like wheezing, coughing up mucus, and persistent cough than people who smoke conventional cigarettes alone. This information will be presented by behavioral scientists Dr. Linnea Hedman at Umea University in Sweden, according to Science Daily.

Dr. Hedman and her team selected people at random from the general population and asked them about their smoking habits and their respiratory symptoms. Of those surveyed, about 11 percent reported smoking only traditional cigarettes, less than 1 percent smoked only e-cigarettes, and 1.2 percent reported that they use both types of products.

Just a little over one-quarter of non-smokers reported respiratory symptoms, while 34 percent of e-cigarette users reported respiratory symptoms. Meanwhile, 46 percent of conventional smokers reported respiratory symptoms, while a whopping 56 percent of those smoking traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes had respiratory symptoms.

“Our results show that a proportion of smokers are also using e-cigarettes. It could be that they’re turning to e-cigarettes when they’re in places like cafes and restaurants where they cannot smoke conventional cigarettes, or it could be that they’re using e-cigarettes in the hopes of quitting smoking,” Hedman wrote.

Hedman also believes that e-cigarettes don’t actually help smokers to quit smoking. She said that evidence doesn’t support that argument because e-cigarette use is not common among former smokers, according to the team’s research.

Man smoking a traditional cigarette, not an e-cigarette.

“We have also found that people who use both conventional and e-cigarettes are more likely to suffer wheezing, or a long-standing or productive cough. It could be that some smokers, who are already suffering these symptoms, want to quit smoking by changing to e-cigarettes but they are not managing to stop. Alternatively, it could be that using both products causes worse respiratory effects than either alone. More research is needed to determine whether e-cigarette use contributes to smoking cessation or if it increases the burden of respiratory disease.”

Hedman says that the long-term health risks from e-cigarettes are still unknown, but that as of this time, e-cigarettes can not honestly be marketed as a safe alternative to smoking conventionally.

Dr. Constantine Vardavas, from the University of Crete, presented the research about the first study that examined the ingredients in e-cigarettes. Dr. Vardavas reported that over one-quarter of all samples contained methyl cyclopentenolone and over 8 percent contained a-ionone. Both of these substances may cause allergy or asthma if inhaled, according to the substances’ own classification. Menthol, ethyl vanillin, and acetyl pyrazine were also found in the e-cigarette liquids and are classified as “able to cause respiratory irritation.”

“The most recent evidence from across the European Union shows a substantial increase in e-cigarette use over the past few years. The EU Tobacco Products Directive notes that e-liquids should not contain ingredients that pose a risk to human health,” Dr. Vardavas said. “However, despite growing research on the effect of different ingredients within e-liquids there is little knowledge on the impact they may have on respiratory health.”

Dr. Vardavas and his colleagues reported that e-cigarette use for the purpose of quitting conventional smoking increased to 11 percent in 2014 from 3.7 percent in 2012, but did not report on how successful people are at using e-cigarettes to actually quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

Do you use e-cigarettes? Let us know in the comments section whether you have experienced greater respiratory symptoms from e-cigarette use.

[Featured Image by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]