E-cigarette use has become increasingly prevalent, but there is some evidence demonstrating potential harms with frequent use. We aimed to identify the profiles of e-cigarette users from a regional community in Australia and investigate the associations of e-cigarettes with respiratory symptoms and lung function.
A total of 519 participants completed a cross-sectional study. Exposure to e-cigarettes was collected via a validated questionnaire. Respiratory symptoms were evaluated via a self-reported questionnaire and lung function measured with spirometry and forced oscillation technique (FOT). Linear and logistic regression models were fitted to investigate the associations between e-cigarettes and outcomes, while controlling for confounders such as tobacco smoking.
Of the 519 participants, 46 (9%) reported e-cigarette use. Users tended to be younger (mean ± SD 45.2 ± 14.5 vs. 55.3 ± 16.0 years in non-users), concurrently using tobacco products (63% vs. 12% in non-users), have a mental health diagnosis (67% vs. 37% in non-users) and have self-reported asthma (63% vs. 42% in non-users). After controlling for known confounders, chest tightness (OR = 2.4, 95% CI 1.2–4.9, p = 0.02) was associated with e-cigarette use. Spirometry was not different after adjustment for confounding. However, FOT showed more negative reactance and a greater area under the reactance curve in e-cigarette users than non-users.
E-cigarette use was associated with increased asthma symptoms and abnormal lung mechanics in our sample, supporting a potential health risk posed by these products. Vulnerable populations such as young adults and those with mental health conditions have higher usage, while there is high concurrent tobacco smoking.