Electronic cigarettes study. | EFE

Electronic cigarettes significantly increase the risk of chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to new research from the University of California in San Francisco and Consumers In Action, or FACUA.

The Consumer Organisation emphasised that this is the first longitudinal study linking electronic cigarettes with respiratory diseases in a representative sample of the entire American adult population.

The study also found that people who used electronic cigarettes and smoked tobacco at the same time were even more at risk of developing chronic lung disease than if they only used one or the other.

The findings, which were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, are based on an analysis of publicly available data from the Tobacco Population and Health Assessment, or PATH, which tracked the habits of electronic cigarettes and tobacco, as well as new diagnoses of lung disease in more than 32,000 American adults between 2013 and 2016.

Although several previous population studies have found an association between the use of electronic cigarettes and lung disease at a single point in time, they only provided a snapshot which made it impossible for researchers to clarify whether lung disease was being caused by electronic cigarettes or if people with lung disease were more likely to use electronic cigarettes.

By studying people without lung disease and following their smoking habits from the beginning for three years, the new longitudinal study offers stronger evidence of a causal link between electronic cigarette use and lung diseases in adults than previous studies.

Stanton Glantz, who’s Professor of the UCSF of Medicine, Director of the Centre for Research and Education for Tobacco Control of the UCSF and the lead Author of the study said the results speak for themselves.

"What we found is that the chances of electronic cigarette users developing lung disease increased by about a third, even after controlling their tobacco use and their clinical and demographic information,” said Professor Glantz, “therefore we conclude that electronic cigarettes are harmful by themselves, and the effects are independent of conventional tobacco smoking.”