E-cigarette use and respiratory disorder in an adult sample

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Jan 1:194:363-370. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.10.004. Epub 2018 Nov 7.


Objectives: Little evidence is available on the association of e-cigarettes with health indices. We investigated the association of e-cigarette use with diagnosed respiratory disorder among adults in data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

Methods: The 2016 Hawaii BRFSS, a cross-sectional random-dial telephone survey, had 8087 participants; mean age was 55 years. Items asked about e-cigarette use, cigarette smoking, and being diagnosed by a health professional with (a) asthma or (b) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Multivariable analyses tested associations of e-cigarette use with the respiratory variables controlling for smoking and for demographic, physical, and psychosocial variables.

Results: Controlling for the covariates and smoking there was a significant association of e-cigarette use with chronic pulmonary disorder in the total sample (AOR = 2.58, CI 1.36-4.89, p < 0.01) and a significant association with asthma among nonsmokers (AOR = 1.33, CI 1.00-1.77, p < 0.05). The associations were stronger among nonsmokers than among smokers. Results were similar for analyses based on relative risk and absolute risk. There was also a greater likelihood of respiratory disorder for smokers, females, and persons with overweight, financial stress, and secondhand smoke exposure.

Conclusions: This is the first study to show a significant independent association of e-cigarette use with chronic respiratory disorder. Several aspects of the data are inconsistent with the possibility that e-cigarettes were being used for smoking cessation by persons with existing respiratory disorder. Theoretical mechanisms that might link e-cigarettes use and respiratory symptoms are discussed.

Keywords: Adults; Asthma; COPD; E-cigarettes; Smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vaping*
  • Young Adult