A new observational study has found a link between electronic cigarette use (vaping) and the potentially increased risk of fragility fractures, raising concerns over bone health. The link was found even in young users, according to the researchers behind the study, which also found that smoking and vaping combined may substantially increase the fracture risk.
The new study was recently published in Elsevier’s American Journal of Medicine Open; it details the results of an observational study that pulled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
The research involved information on more than 5,500 adults in the US, 81.2-percent of whom reported having never used electronic cigarettes. The remaining 18.8-percent of individuals included in the sample pool had reported vaping at some point, while 8-percent of people included in the overall sample said they’d experienced fragility fractures.
According to the new study, a fragility fracture refers to a broken wrist, hip, or spine experienced as the result of minimal trauma, such as falling over from standing height (or less). The NIH goes on to state that fragility fractures are a sign of osteoporosis, a disease involving a weakening of bones that leaves them more vulnerable to injuries.
Based on an analysis of the data, the researchers found a link between a greater risk of fragility fractures and vaping when compared to the participants who said they’d never vaped. As well, and more concerning for smokers who are struggling to make the switch, the study also found a link between the combined use of cigarettes and vapes and a greater risk of these bone fractures compared to people who only used cigarettes.
The researchers say that vaping may ultimately be a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures, with electronic cigarette users potentially increasing their risk over time (via EurekAlert). The researchers behind the study point out that tobacco cigarette use is an established risk factor for developing fragility fractures and osteoporosis. The new observational study helps shed light on a similar potential risk between the disease and vaping, something that hasn’t previously been explored.
Growing list of concerns
Increased use of electronic cigarettes has fueled growing efforts to study the habit and how it may impact both short- and long-term health. Though many questions remain, several studies have highlighted potential health consequences associated with vaping, including changes to bacteria that may increase the risk of oral diseases, increased risk of lung diseases like COPD, and chronic inflammation that may impact the gut.
Despite the risks, electronic cigarettes may be a less harmful alternative for smokers who are looking to kick the habit. Multiple studies have found that while vaping isn’t a healthy activity, it may be considerably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Public health agencies are still exploring how to best balance these two realities, protecting youth from developing vaping habits while still providing a way for smokers to switch from cigarettes to something potentially less harmful.
The biggest push at this point in time is addressing flavored vaping liquids, which critics say are more appealing to teens who may otherwise never use tobacco products. Back in August, a coalition of states across the US petitioned the FDA to ban all vaping liquids that feature flavors appealing to teens, including mint, menthol, candy, and fruit.
Only weeks later, the FDA formally authorized a nicotine vape for the first time, but notably only extended its authorization to tobacco liquids flavors, rejecting the applications for other liquid flavors.
Despite the apparent logic of targeting flavors that appeal to teens, such bans may not work as intended. Back in May, Yale University published a study that found San Francisco’s ban on flavored tobacco products — including vape liquid — may have resulted in teens simply switching from vapes to tobacco cigarettes.