(Reuters Health) – About 10.8 million American adults currently use e-cigarettes, and more than half of them are under the age of 35, a study from the United States.
FILE PHOTO: A customer tastes various e-cigarette flavors at the Henley Vaporium in New York, USA June 23, 2015. REUTERS / Lucas Jackson / File Photo
One in three e-cigarette users steams daily, Researcher report in the annals of internal medicine.
"The use of electronic cigarettes is also closely linked to other high-risk behaviors," said senior study author Dr. Michael Blaha, Director of Clinical Research for the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease in Baltimore. "The most common usage pattern in the US is dual-use consumption, ie the current use of traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes."
Twenty-somethings, smokers of traditional cigarettes, unemployed adults and people posing as lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) are more likely than other people to use e-cigarettes, the study also found.
"It becomes clear that certain vulnerable groups are at greatest risk of using electronic cigarettes," Blaha said via email.
Large tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co., and Reynolds American Inc., all develop e-cigarettes. The battery-powered devices have a glowing tip and a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and other flavorings into a vapor cloud that the user inhales.
E-cigarettes containing nicotine can be addictive like traditional cigarettes. Even without nicotine, some research indicates that flavors and other ingredients in e-liquids used for vaporizing can be associated with serious respiratory problems.
Another open question is whether e-cigarettes could help some people save or stop smoking conventional cigarettes, and the study does not provide a clear answer.
Men performed more often than women; 5.9 percent of men reported on the current use of e-cigarettes compared to 3.7 percent in women.
Vaping was even more common among sexual minorities. Seven percent of lesbians and gays were current e-cigarette users, as were 9 percent of bisexual adults and 8.7 percent of transgender people.
People with chronic medical problems such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, and difficulty breathing were also more likely to vapor than people without these common health problems.
One limitation, however, is that all data was reported by itself and not verified by medical records. The researchers also did not know what type of e-cigarette devices people were using or which liquids they vaporized, which could affect the health benefits associated with steaming.
One benefit of the study was that researchers had responses from nearly 467,000 adults, making it possible to study trends for subgroups such as LGBTQ individuals in a way that would not be possible with a smaller survey.
"We know that most e-cigarette consumers are smokers of traditional cigarettes and that LGBTQ adults are more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes, so I'm not surprised that the prevalence of e-cigarettes is higher among LGBTQ people." said Dr. Nancy Rigotti, Director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"Current smokers and younger risers are the groups in which the use of e-cigarettes is highest," said Rigotti, author of an accompanying editorial, via e-mail.
"Why LGBTQ adults tend to smoke cigarettes is a complex issue, but these individuals have a higher prevalence of other substance disorders and mental health (diagnoses)," Rigotti added. "Tobacco use is high in adults with these conditions and this undoubtedly contributes to the increased tobacco consumption among LGBT people."
SOURCE: bit.ly/2wkECfL Annals of Internal Medicine, online August 27, 2018.  Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.