Eur Respir J. 2020 Nov 5:1901815. doi: 10.1183/13993003.01815-2019. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is prevalent among adolescents and young adults but there has been limited knowledge about health consequences in human populations. We conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of results on respiratory disorder from studies of general-population samples and consider the mapping of these results to findings about biological processes linked to e-cigarettes in controlled laboratory studies.
METHOD: We conduct a literature search and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies on the association of e-cigarette use with asthma and with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We then discuss findings from laboratory studies about effects of e-cigarettes on four biological processes: cytotoxicity, oxidative stress/inflammation, susceptibility to infection, and genetic expression.
RESULTS: Epidemiological studies, both cross-sectional and longitudinal, show a significant association of e-cigarette use with asthma and COPD, controlling for cigarette smoking and other covariates. For asthma (n=15 studies), the pooled adjusted odds ratio (AOR) was 1.39 (CI 1.28-1.51); for COPD (n=9 studies) the AOR was 1.49 (CI 1.36-1.65). Laboratory studies consistently show an effect of e-cigarettes on biological processes related to respiratory harm and susceptibility to illness, with e-cigarette conditions differing significantly from clean-air controls though sometimes less than for cigarettes.
CONCLUSIONS: The evidence from epidemiological studies meets established criteria for consistency, strength of effect, temporality, and in some cases a dose-response gradient. Biological plausibility is indicated by evidence from multiple laboratory studies. We conclude that e-cigarette use has consequences for asthma and COPD, which is of significant concern for respirology and public health.