In a move that will surprise no one (although it may dismay some on the anti-vaping front), Riccardo Polosa and six scientific colleages from the University of Catania and other European institutions, found that switching from smoking to vaping improved the health of asthma sufferers.
Their findings were reported in May in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and displayed significant improvements in three measures and non-significant improvements in one measure. The improvements had to do with better asthma control, as measured by a standardized questionnaire (Juniper's Asthma Control Questionnaire), better pulmonary function, as measured by spirometry, a common test for lung function in asthmatics and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) sufferers, and improvements in reduced airway irritability (“hyper-responsiveness”). Reduction in asthmatic episodes (“exacerbations”) was noted but did not achieve levels of experimental significance.
Patients were evaluated at baseline (the time of vaping commencement) and at two follow-up visits, six months and one year later, and data from a pre-baseline visit was also included (to establish “stability” of the disease pattern). Close to half of the patients studied reduced their cigarette usage but did not totally quit – they were “dual users” – but results were comparable for these participants. More than half of the participants succeeded in their smoking cessation efforts through e-cigarette use, and some of them progressed from cigalikes to personal vaporizers as their preferred vaping device. Even the dual users succeeded in significantly reducing smoking behavior.
The authors conjectured that the efficacy of vaping as a smoking cessation method for these asthma patients had to do with compensations both at the physical and the behavioral level. The substitution of vaping devices seemed to satisfy cravings based on the users' “smoking ritual”. The authors also believe that a reduction in corticosteroid insensitivity was involved. Corticosteroid inhalers are a common asthma remedy, and asthmatics who smoke are noted for their resistance to the beneficial effects of these inhalers. The study also found significant reductions in bronchial hyper-responsiveness (irritability of the bronchial passages) among those whose switch to vaping was of considerable duration. There were no adverse reactions to vaping among the patients studied.
The authors concluded that “by substantially reducing number of cigarettes smoked per day and exposure to their hazardous toxicants, e-cigs may not only improve asthma symptoms and pulmonary function but may also confer an overall health advantage in smokers with asthma.” The seven scientists commented that e-cig use led not only to “harm-reduction” but to “harm-reversal”. Large randomized studies are needed, the authors say in closing, in order to confirm the preliminary findings of their study.
This study by Polosa et alia provides a step toward ameliorating the much-lamented “lack of research” so often decried by anti-vaping enthusiasts. The vaping community, and not only asthmatic smokers, owes a debt of gratitude to the Polosa group of scientists, and to others like them.
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