Vaping can help reverse some of the harm caused by smoking in people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). That’s the finding of a new study published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
The research found that smokers with COPD who used e-cigarettes showed consistently improved overall health and physical activity, and respiratory infections and other effects of COPD were reduced. They also showed that vaping did not worsen the patients’ lung health.
The study looked at two groups of COPD patients for three years. One group of 22 patients switched from smoking cigarettes to using e-cigarettes (or greatly reduced their smoking by vaping), and the other group of 22 who continued to smoke and did not use e-cigarettes during the three-year study. The group that continued to smoke did not show signs of harm reversal.
The new study comes from Prof. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania (Italy), and seven other researchers from Italian and British universities and hospitals. Dr. Polosa, a lung specialist and veteran of vaping research, previously showed that vaping can improve asthma symptoms in smokers. He has also followed healthy never-smoking vapers that showed no signs of heart or lung damage after three years of vaping.
The research verified results that had been suggested by an earlier Polosa study. But that study relied on questioning COPD patients about their health over a two-year period, not observation and testing on patients in real time. For the new study, Polosa and his colleagues followed the same patients for an additional year and carefully marked their progress.
Smokers with COPD traditionally have a poor record of quitting cigarettes. That’s why the most important effect of vaping for smoking COPD sufferers may be the most obvious one: e-cigarettes provide a viable alternative for smokers who have a hard time quitting.
“Quitting smoking is a key strategy not only to prevent the onset of COPD but also to stop its progression to more severe disease stages,” Dr. Polosa said. “Given that many COPD patients continue smoking despite their symptoms, the electronic cigarette could be an effective and safe alternative to the tobacco cigarettes also in this vulnerable population. Over an observation period of three years, only two patients (8.3%) relapsed to cigarette smoking, and both patients were dual users.”
Even the patients who didn’t completely quit smoking improved their health. They decreased their cigarette consumption by at least 75 percent, and showed reduced COPD symptoms and better overall quality of life.
Perhaps the best result of this study would be wider acceptance of vaping as a medical strategy to help smoking COPD patients avoid further damage to their lungs.
“While the sample size in our study was relatively small,” write the authors, “the results of this study may provide preliminary evidence that long-term use of [e-cigarettes] is unlikely to result in substantial health concerns in COPD patients.”