OSU Studying Effects of E-Cigarettes on Lung Health
If you’re puffing on an e-cig, you’re a guinea pig, based on a lack of information available on the products. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) hopes to gain some understanding through two studies aimed at evaluating the health effects of e-cigarettes compared to traditional tobacco products.
“There is minimal data available regarding the direct health effects of e-cig use or vaping, but these products have gained rapid popularity among existing smokers and non-smokers alike, including young adults.” said Peter Shields, MD, Deputy Director of the OSUCCC. “We are concerned that people assume these products have fewer negative health effects as compared with cigarettes and other tobacco products.”
E-cigarette use is most prevalent among people who’ve quit smoking and among young adults and minors. According to a CDC report published in 2014, the latest year available, e-cigarette use among high school students tripled since the year before, with 2 million students consuming the products. Another CDC report said adults aged 18-24 years old are drawn to the contraptions with use diminishing each year.
As popularity around the products has soared, oversight and regulations have appeared. In May of this year the FDA extended its regulatory authority to “all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (E-Cigarettes), e-pipes, and all other ENDS” (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems). Just two days ago it banned the sale of these products to minors.
The studies at OSU are intended to further inform and guide the FDA in future regulations by observing e-cigarettes’ effect on lung tissue and the levels of carcinogen exposure to people who use e-cigarettes, regular cigarettes or both.
For the first study on lung health, James is recruiting 60 tobacco users and non-smokers who will undergo a bronchoscopy, a test involving the collection of lung fluid using a tube inserted through the nose or mouth. After a month of using e-cigarettes, study participants will have another bronchoscopy. Shields said the test will allow researchers to see how lung tissue changes from e-cig use in real time.
The second study will take several hundred participants over two phases, including a “baseline phase,” where study participants will fill out questionnaires and give urine and mouth cell samples, and an eight-week clinical trial. During the trial, participants will be split off randomly into three groups. A control group will continue smoking as usual while one group uses e-cigs and the other uses medicinal nicotine in the form of gum or lozenges.
The trials are funded by the National Institutes of Health and FDA. Pelotonia, the cycling event that took place last weekend, also helped in funding the lung health study by contributing more than $106 million for cancer research at The OSUCCC — James.
“The reality is that [e-cigs] are still a tobacco product and people are still inhaling potentially harmful chemicals,” Shields said. “They should not be considered a ‘safer’ option until science has the opportunity to catch up with the consumer market.”
Recruitment for the studies started late last month and is still going.
For more information, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.