A new study at Dalhousie University is looking into whether vaping can cause permanent lung damage in young adults.
According to the researchers, nearly 15 per cent of youth in Canada use vapes regularly. Vaping requires users to inhale an aerosol mist created by an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette. The e-juice in the cartridges typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, chemicals and flavourings.
Dr. Sanja Stanojevic, an assistant professor at the university’s Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, was prompted to research the topic while working with a colleague who was visiting high schools to discuss the harmful effects of vaping.
“For me, it kind of connected all of the stars in terms of my work in understanding what happens in early life and then hearing about the numbers and how many youth in this province are are exposed to vaping, not only through firsthand vaping exposure, but also through secondhand vape exposure,” she said in an interview with Global News Morning on Tuesday.
“And really thinking about how do we best identify what the harms are if there are harms.”
Paramount, she said, is discovering whether exposure to vaping will predispose “an entire generation” to lung problems, since late adolescence and early adulthood is a “critical phase” for lung development.
To conduct the study, Stanojevic is using a different type of breathing test on the participants because traditional breathing tests can’t detect early lung damage.
“Our traditional tests tend to only measure the large airways and when there’s damage or obstruction to two of the large airways. So you can imagine it takes many, many years for for lung damage to reach those large airways,” she said.
Instead, the multiple breath washout test will measure the smaller airways.
“You just breathe normally like you’re breathing right now onto a mouthpiece and we measure the gases in your lungs,” said Stanojevic.
“So for the first time, we’re able to actually see whether vaping is going to damage those teeny tiny airways that are involved in a gas exchange. And we’re particularly interested in whether there’s damage in the lung periphery or in those areas where they’re small and the airways are much smaller and they’re more predisposed to to the harmful effects of vaping.”
In April 2020, Nova Scotia became the first Canadian province to ban the sale of flavoured vape juices and e-cigarettes in an effort to reduce their appeal to youth.
Higher taxes went into effect in September that year, bringing the rate to 50 cents per ml of liquid, and 20 per cent of the retail price of all devices.
The hope is that the findings in this project will inform doctors and policy makers on the safety of vaping.
Stanojevic is still looking for participants who are aged 18 to 25. To inquire about eligibility, the study team can be reached at email@example.com.