UH Cancer Center researchers study effects of e-cigarettes

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In Hawaii, 25% – 31% of young adults (ages 18-25) are likely e-cigarette users, according to research from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. The school has a dedicated team to studying the effects of electronic cigarettes on adults and teenagers.

Lung illnesses associated with the use of e-cigarettes are a growing problem. The Centers for Disease Control reported 380 cases of lung illnesses linked to vaping across the United States.

Vaping has become more and more popular among Hawaii teens.

Professor and Director of the Cancer Prevention in the Pacific Program Dr. Thomas Wills said, “a couple of years ago we started seeing these strange things happening in the school. People were blowing clouds of vapor.” Dr. Wills said at first, they didn’t know what it was.

“In the time we were doing the surveys, it went from single digits to 20-30% of the school population [using e-cigarettes],” Dr. Wills added about the number of teenagers in Hawaii using e-cigarettes.

Researches began surveying Hawaii residents about vaping over six years ago. Since then, they’ve discovered some shocking results.

“We see evidence consistently relating e-cigarette use to asthma in teenagers,” Dr. Wills said about his research.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cancer Institute awarded Dr. Pallav Pokhrel and his team a $1.4 million grant to study the effects of e-cigarette marketing.

“We’ve been finding that there is a lot of pro e-cig content on social media,” Dr. Pokhrel said.

Among his many findings, Dr. Pokhrel discovered that young adults (ages 18-25) exposed to e-cigarette marketing on social media are 30% more likely to vape one year later.

He also found that 67% of Hawaii young adults have been exposed to e-cigarette ads online.

“They’re making it look cool. They’re making it look glamorous,” Dr. Pokhrel explained.

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