Concerns over the potentially harmful effects of vaping have been growing recently and the results of a new study do little to dispel concerns. The research, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teens were approximately twice as likely to report wheezing or whistling in the chest after vaping marijuana than after smoking cigarettes or using e-cigarettes.
Vaping weed has been associated with a dangerous, newly identified lung disease called EVALI, short for “e-cigarette, or vaping product use-associated lung injury”, which was identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in summer 2019, after a spate of hospitalizations of otherwise fit and healthy young people across the country with severe and sometime fatal lung disease. Vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent used to dilute THC, has since been identified as the principal cause, but this study suggest that there could be other factors at play that make vaping marijuana, even when harmful additives are not present, injurious to lungs.
The new results come from the PATH or Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study, which is a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration. In this fourth wave of the study nearly 15,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 described their last 30-day cigarette, e-cigarette and weed use, as well as the total time they had spent vaping marijuana.
Each minor also reported on five respiratory symptoms over the last twelve months.These were: wheezing or whistling in the chest; disturbed sleep due to wheezing; limited speech due to wheezing; wheezing during or after exercise, and experiencing a dry cough at night that was not due to having a cold or flu.
The data found that adolescents "lifetime cannabis vaping’" use was associated with all five negative respiratory symptoms. This, however, was not true for cigarette or e-cigarette use.
“This surprised us — we thought we would find more negative respiratory symptoms in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes users,” author Carol Boyd, co-director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking & Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,” told CNN.
“Without a doubt, cigarettes and e-cigarettes are unhealthy and not good for lungs. However, vaping marijuana appears even worse,” she added.
The researchers acknowledged that their analysis was limited by the original questions asked in the PATH study, which didn't focus on the long-term use of vaping marijuana.
They also say further investigation is needed to see whether a combination of vaping nicotine and cannabis may be driving the more severe respiratory symptoms.