Nearly $17M Invested to Fast-track Studies on Health Impacts of Vaping, Nicotine on Youth

The American Heart Association is investing nearly $17 million to fund a two-year research initiative, ENACT (End Nicotine Addiction in Children and Teens) led by scientists from Boston University School of Medicine, the Ohio State University and Yale University focusing on the health impacts of e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery systems on youth and young adults.

This is the latest in a multipronged, ongoing commitment announced last fall by the American Heart Association to fight the growing epidemic of youth vaping.

“E-cigarettes are being marketed as a healthy option to traditional cigarettes, but no one knows if vaping is safe in the long run because e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough to be studied deeply. Some diseases can take years and even decades to develop, so there is more work needed to fully understand all the dangers,” said American Heart Association President Robert A. Harrington, MD, FAHA, Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University. “There’s certainly plenty of indication they’re harmful for growing minds and bodies because we know e-cigarettes contain nicotine and we know the harmful effects of nicotine, but it’s important we grow that overall body of scientific evidence.”

Dr. Harrington said there’s a sense of urgency because, at a time when regular cigarette smoking has reached an all-time low, young people are turning to e-cigarettes at epidemic proportions with nearly one in four high school students reportedly vaping. That’s why these research projects will be high-impact and fast tracked, only two years in length and funded at levels among the highest individual grants awarded in the Association’s history. The initiative is designed to produce turnkey programs to support youth as well as provide clear evidence to inform policy decisions.

The researchers will be working to identify the biological impacts of vaping on multiple organ systems (heart, brain, lungs, vascular, etc.), behavioral factors and specific social influencers of health to reverse these trends.

Naomi Hamburg, MD

Dr. Naomi Hamburg, the Joseph A. Vita, MD Professor, will lead a team to establish the Rapidly Advancing Discovery to Arrest the Outbreak of Youth Vaping Center. It will include four intersecting projects at Boston University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and the University of Louisville. These projects include: basic research using human induced pluripotent stem cell samples to test the toxicity of the components of e-cigarettes; mobile health technology to measure the physiological cardiovascular impacts of e-cigarettes on youth in real-world settings and a virtual reality and text messaging delivered e-cigarette cessation program for youth developed by combining social media methods with focus groups.

There are two additional projects funded by the American Heart Association. Learn more

“The rapid pace of e-cigarette products entering the market and targeting our youth requires an ambitious, aggressive approach beyond the incremental pace achieved through traditional research mechanisms. Policymakers, regulators, medical professionals and schools are looking to enact strategies, policies and solutions but there’s inadequate evidence to inform these efforts,” Harrington said. “The American Heart Association is proud to be on the forefront of bringing together some of the best minds in their fields to conduct the research, development and testing to bring bold and innovative results to address the growing epidemic of youth vaping in our commitment of longer, healthier lives for all.”

The American Heart Association has funded more than $4.6 billion in cardiovascular research since 1949.