UTEP Professor: Vaping may be harmful


Oscar Avila, Reporter

In 2017, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Fatima Z. Alshbool, began to research the effects of e-cigarettes and vapor machines.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat up nicotine-infused liquid into a breathable substance.

Alshbool is focused on the Cardiovascular disease aspect of this research—specifically, the pathogenesis of thrombotic diseases. She became interested in heart health after she lost relatives to smoking-related heart illnesses. She hopes that her findings will lead people to reconsider vaping and inform teenagers of risks.

According to Alshbool, smoking is known to increase risk of heart disease because it affects platelets in the bloodstream causing them to over clot the blood. Although tobacco manufacturers claim their vaping products are risk-free, Alshbool warns these electronic variants are a potential threat.

In 2018, she collaborated with her husband, Fadi Khasawneh, on a study of lab mice exposed to e-cigarette vapors. Their research found that blood clots developed in the mice over five days of exposure.

Their research has raised questions on whether the effect occurs in humans or not. Although studies from other mouse models have aligned with human studies in the past, Alshbool cannot confirm that this is a possibility with her research now.

“This is just a short time, so for humans it could be longer, and humans have more variability,” Alshbool said.

E-cigarettes also come in a large variety,  there are many variables that must be considered, which lengthens the process. Alshbool believes more research must be done to have a better understanding of the health risks vapes might cause. She is concerned about teenagers who have never smoked and are encouraged to do so through vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported use of e-cigarettes in high schools increased by 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also said 30.7 percent of teenage e-cig users are more likely to start smoking compared to 8.1 percent of non-users.

These numbers trouble Alshbool because of how sensitive adolescent brains are to the negative effects of nicotine.

“The youth, they never smoked before, so you’re creating a new generation of tobacco users, especially like with the JUUL, which has a very high concentration of nicotine,” Alshbool said.

JUUL is a brand of e-cigarette similar in appearance to a USB flash drive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found from JUUL’s manufacturer that a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. Its sleek and ergonomic design make it the current top-seller in the nation and a popular choice amongst teens. Ultimately, the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes is still being discovered. As of today, there is not enough evidence to prove they are the better choice than traditional tobacco products.

Alshbool cannot confirm this, either, but she stands by her research.