According to a new study that was published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, vaping cannabis at any frequency was linked with symptoms of bronchitis and wheezing in young adults around 19 years old.
It was last year that EVALI emerged, a mysterious case of lung injury associated with using e-cigarettes or vaping products. Over 2,800 people from all 50 states and even D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands had been hospitalized or died from the condition that was named by the CDC.
“With (Covid-19) happening, we just kind of knew that people who had vaped nicotine or had vaped cannabis were presenting a unique respiratory illness that wasn’t really well understood,” said Jessica Braymiller, the study’s first author.
Braymiller is a postdoctoral researcher at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the University of Southern California.
“The pandemic has really underscored the importance of understanding what could make respiratory symptoms worse.”
The current study surveyed over 2,000 young adults with an online questionnaire that had recently graduated from Southern California high schools and reported their history of vaping and smoking behaviors, and respiratory health symptoms.
The study found that those who had vaped cannabis any number of times from within the last month to their overall lifetime had a stronger link to symptoms of bronchitis compared to people who had never vaped cannabis. Interestingly, the more times those participants had vaped cannabis in the last month, the stronger the risk was.
It was also revealed that vaping the drug on three or more days in the last 30 days was connected with twice the risk of wheeze and whistling in one’s chest in the past year.
The study “continues to show the findings that inhalation leads to airway inflammation manifested” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association to CNN. Rizzo was not a part of the study.
“More research is needed to determine if these relatively short term observations are harbingers of chronic changes and the development of chronic lung diseases,” Rizzo added.
“The main takeaway is that using any kind of e-cigarettes has adverse effects for teenagers’ health. Particularly so for putting cannabis in e-cigarettes,” remarked Thomas Wills, professor and director of the Cancer Prevention in the Pacific Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.
“Using cannabis obtained from illicit sources raises” the additional risk of developing EVALI, Wills, added. Wills also was not involved with the study.
There are a lot of scientists who still don’t know about the effects of vaping on lung health, “whether it is nicotine or cannabis products,” Rizzo said.
“The best course of action to benefit your health is to refrain from the use of any tobacco products since we have abundant data on its health effects … the answers are not in as yet regarding the long term effects of vaping cannabis products.”
“Any individual that has or develops the above symptoms, especially in this time of COVID-19, should discuss the symptoms with their health care provider,” Rizzo further said.