For years, e-cigarettes were seen as a slightly healthier way to smoke or as a tool to help chronic smokers quit. But a growing body of research has found that e-cigarettes, like “regular” cigarettes, can also be damaging to your health.

The use of e-cigarettes is growing, especially in kids. They’re the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2022, 2.55 million American middle and high school students reported having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, per CDC data, including 3.3% of middle school students and 14.1% of high school students.

A new study from the Ohio State University has found that teens with an e-cigarette habit quickly develop noticeable respiratory symptoms. But why might that be the case and what happens next? Here’s what you need to know.

The study, which is published in the journal Thorax, analyzed data from several waves of surveys. In 2014, the researchers asked 2,097 teens of a mean age of 17.3 from the Southern California Children’s Health Study about their e-cigarette, regular tobacco and cannabis use, along with any health symptoms they experienced. Three additional waves of surveys were taken in 2015, 2017 and 2018. By wave 4, more than 15% of those surveyed said they used e-cigarettes.

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During the first wave, 23% of the teens surveyed said that they had asthma. Symptoms of bronchitis were common in each wave, ranging from 19.5% of study participants to 26%, depending on the survey.

The researchers found that use of e-cigarettes within the past 30 days was linked to an increased risk of wheezing, symptoms of bronchitis and shortness of breath.

The odds of wheezing were 81% higher in those who had used e-cigarettes over the past 30 days compared to those who had never smoked. The chances of having symptoms of bronchitis was twice as likely, and shortness of breath was 78% more likely, than in those who had never smoked.

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