Vaping may increase your lung disease risk even if you don’t smoke tobacco, according to a massive study of vapers

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Experts have long cautioned that vaping may not be much safer than smoking, and now, a three year-long study is backing them up with hard evidence about the dangers of vaping on long-term lung health.

The study, released in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on Monday, followed more than 32,000 vapers, smokers, and non-smokers from 2013 to 2016. When the study started, none of them reported any respiratory diseases, but that was not the case in follow-ups months and years later. The study found that vaping, like smoking, increased a person’s risk of developing serious long-term lung issues, including asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.

“E-cigarettes are harmful on their own, and the effects are independent of smoking conventional tobacco,” lead study author Stanton Glantz, who directs the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said in a press release.

This is some of the first large-scale evidence that vaping is harmful for our lungs, no matter what people may inhale. Though vapers in the study had an increased risk of developing serious lung issues, their risk was about half as bad as smokers. The respiratory diseases that both vapers and smokers tend to get, in turn, are associated with additional health issues, including hypertension and diabetes.

In the study, people who vaped regularly were more than 1.3 times as likely to develop chronic lung disease as non-vapers, while tobacco smokers were 2.6 times more likely. But perhaps most devastating of all was the news that people who smoke and vape, so-called “dual users,” were 3.3 times more likely than people who don’t puff at all to develop a chronic lung condition.

People who vape and also smoke cigarettes are worse off than people who just smoke tobacco

“Dual users – the most common use pattern among people who use e-cigarettes – get the combined risk of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, so they’re actually worse off than tobacco smokers,” Glantz said.

This heightened risk of lung disease for dual users is a troubling find, given that people who vape tend to fall into this category more often than not (more than 64% of e-cigarette users in the study also smoked).

The study is yet another reminder that e-cigarettes are not great at helping people quit smoking. Other studies have likewise found that e-cigarettes tend to just widen the variety of tobacco products that smokers use and help hook young people on nicotine for life.

“As a consumer product, they’re a disaster,” Glantz previously told Insider, before his newest study was released.

Vapes can hurt our lungs even though they don’t always contain tobacco The flavors of vaping liquids are one of the top two reasons young people told Reuters they begin using e-cigs.

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The flavors of vaping liquids are one of the top two reasons young people told Reuters they begin using e-cigs.
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REUTERS/David Becker

This new study provides a window into how vaping, no matter the ingredients in the vape, could hurt lung health.

A nationwide vaping lung injury crisis over this past summer and fall in the US killed at least 52 people and sickened 2,400 more, causing widespread concern about the safety of vaping. But the bulk of those deadly and debilitating cases were among vapers who inhaled THC cannabis vapes, and especially the illicit kinds, like “Dank Vapes.”

One common ingredient in almost all e-cigarettes is propylene glycol/vegetable glycerin (PG-VG). PG-VG includes vegetable oils and other liquid solvents that are used to deliver a vaper’s desired drugs. A small study released by the University of Pennsylvania in August suggested that PG-VG liquids inside vape pens might undergo dangerous transformations as they heat up and aerosolize, potentially turning them into toxic substances.

“I think there’s an emerging consensus that the immune cells of the lung are a little bit upset by vaping,” Professor Robert Tarran, who studies vaping at the University of North Carolina Marisco Lung Institute, previously told Insider.