Study Finds Possible Link to E-Cigarettes and Lung Injury

Report finds e-cigs with THC may lead to illnesses

Tom Puckett
January 16, 2020 - 4:00 am
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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) A UB epidemiologist was among those taking part in a CDC study looking to find a possible link between e-cigarette use and lung injury.

Jo L. Freudenheim, PhD, chair of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, is a co-author on the paper as a member of the Lung Injury Response Laboratory Working Group. "What we found is the people who were hospitalized, almost all of them were using e-cigarettes containing cannibinol," says Freudenheim. "In the lungs of people with the disease, we found vitamin E acetate in almost every single one of them. In lungs of healthy people, no one had vitamin E acetate detectable in their lungs."

She says it's not 100 percent conclusive, but it's very close that vitamin E acetate added to e-cigarettes containing THC might be the cause of e-cigarette, or vaping, product-use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases.

The paper says vitamin E acetate is commonly used as a dietary supplement and in skin creams, and that these uses generally do not have adverse health effects. "This kind of very large danger we found in the people using the THC e-cigarettes was inhaling it, so it seems inhaling oils is not good for the lungs in general," explaisn Freudenheim.

As for arguments in favor of nicotine based e-cigarettes, "this evidence does seem to indicate e-cigarettes containing THC that are the problem ones, not nicotine ones. But with regards to regulation, there's still a lot to be done," says Freudenheim. "Use of e-cigarettes among smokers as an alternative to smoking is probably good. There's less harm, they call it harm reduction. But for non-smokers who switch to e-cigarettes, there's a risk to injury to their lungs and risk of addiction to nicotine."

Ted Brasky, who received both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at UB and is now an assistant professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Brian King are co-authors on the main list of contributors to the paper. King received his master’s and PhD in epidemiology at UB and is now deputy director for research translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

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