Vaping by adolescents and young adults is a legitimate concern as there is a risk that some may start smoking and that electronic cigarette (EC) use may have adverse effects in the developing lungs of adolescents. This commentary provides updated information on vaping patterns among adolescents and young adults in the United States, as well as the impact of EC usage on respiratory health.
EC use has surged greatly among high school students and young adults over the last decade but fortunately has declined significantly since its peak in 2019. During the same time period, smoking rates have constantly fallen to new low record levels. These trends argue against EC use as a gateway to smoking. Most EC usage is infrequent and unlikely to increase a person’s risk of negative health consequences. Furthermore, the majority of EC usage has happened among those who have previously smoked. There is a dearth of data on the long-term health implications of EC usage in adolescents and young adults. We do not know whether short-term or intermittent use of EC in youth can lead to negative health outcomes in adulthood, and long-term high-quality studies in well-defined groups are needed. Although vaping has been linked to respiratory symptoms, they tend to be transient and of uncertain significance. This commentary provides up-to-date information so health care providers can give objective and responsible medical advice on EC usage.