Scientists Study How Electronic Cigarettes Impact Smokers With Asthma
As the FDA pushes to regulate electronic cigarettes, it’s more important than ever for the vaping community to share the scientific research that proves how beneficial ecigs can be for smokers. When you get beyond all of the media’s scare tactics and the lobbying pharmaceutical companies, the simple truth is that electronic cigarettes present a tobacco-free alternative to smokers and it could be a life changing switch, especially for smokers with higher risks due to other health problems.
People with asthma are at a particularly elevated risk for serious health problems if they smoke. That is why Professor Riccardo Polosa and his associates decided to conduct a study to determine how electronic cigarettes would impact asthmatic smokers. The researchers began by scouring medical records to find 18 asthma patients that had a history of tobacco use and recruiting them to participate in the new study. They chose patients that had also reported using ecigs during at least two consecutive doctor’s visits. The group was comprised of 11 men and 7 women.
The research team noted baseline visits for each patient to determine when they were recorded as tobacco users. They also gained information on their doctor’s visits prior to the baseline to insure that the patients were in stable condition and not improving prior to trying electronic cigarettes. Each patient was then assessed after six months and one year to see how their asthma had progressed. They used an asthma questionnaire to rate any changes to their condition and conducted lung function tests as well as assessments of airway hyper-responsiveness.
All of the patients had previous smoked about 20 cigarettes per day. Ten patients switched over to electronic cigarettes and completely eliminated tobacco use, but 8 were dual users, and chose to smoke and vape. The researchers noticed that all of them began vaping with ecigs that closely resembled the design of traditional cigarettes, but they quickly switched to advanced personal vaporizers for more long-term use. By the end of the study, the patients had been vaping for 10 to 14 months.
After six months, the patients went through another round of assessments and the researchers found that questionnaire scores improved for all the patients, with noted improvement in symptoms. All patients also showed improvement in lung function. Both single and dual-use patients had similar changes at the six month follow up. After a full year, all of the asthma patients had significant improvements.
Polosa and his colleagues found that the asthmatic smokers had no negative reactions to vaping and there was no reported increase in symptoms like wheezing or coughing. He noted that 10 of the 18 participants managed to completely quit smoking using ecigs and the average number of cigarettes used each day went down from 21.9 to 1.7 after a year. Even the dual-users saw a significant change in their tobacco use. At the start of the study, the dual-use group used an average of 22.4 cigarettes per day, but after a year, the average was only 3.9 per day. The researchers credit the widespread health improvements to the fact that all participants either drastically reduced tobacco use or quit completely.
Originally, the study was centered on how vaping would impact asthma, but the most striking findings were for the dual-use groups. Most people believe that dual use is not beneficial, but Polosa’s findings show that it is actually quite effective. In fact, the dual users reported the same improvements to their asthma symptoms as those that completely switched. This suggests that even asthmatic smokers that are not interested in giving up cigarettes could potentially enjoy the same health benefits by adding e-cigs to their daily usage. These patients still drastically reduced their cigarette use and had major health improvement.
The researchers noted that ecigs work well for smokers that aren’t interested in quitting because they offer nicotine and the habitual hand-to-mouth motion. They speculated that it was the combination of physical and behavioral benefits that made ecigs so successful. Polosa and his colleagues pointed out that while the sample group was small, the study definitely showed that vaping is tolerated well by patients with asthma. None of the participants reported any adverse effects or harm from using ecigs.
At the end of the trial, the research team concluded that e-cigs are a good alternative that asthmatic smokers should consider. “Therefore, e-cig use in asthmatic smokers unable or unwilling to quit should be exploited as a safer alternative approach to harm-reversal (i.e. specific reversal of asthma-related outcomes) and, in general, to harm reduction (i.e. overall reduction of smoke-related diseases).”
Overall, this study offers an important look at the potential benefits of ecigs for those with pre-existing health conditions that are often exacerbated by smoking. Future study is needed with larger control groups to gain a better understanding of how asthma symptoms could be improved by encouraging smoking patients to try ecigs for smoking cessation.
If you have a loved one that lives with chronic asthma and is still smoking cigarettes, share this study! The vaping community needs to get the word out that ecigs are making positive changes for many people, including those with health problems like asthma. How have you personally seen changes to your health since switching to electronic cigarettes?