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E-cig study shows vaping offers health benefits for asthmatic patients

An e-cig study out of Italy suggests that vaping can greatly reduce the symptoms in asthmatic patients who smoke, even for those who engage in dual use.   Most medical experts agree that patients suffering from this respiratory disease tend to witness a steady decline in lung functions over time, especially for asthmatics who smoke.  Perhaps even more alarming, their physical responses to asthma medications also tends to reduce as the disease progresses.

While quitting smoking is always the preferred solution, many patients simply cannot successfully kick the habit permanently.  Professor Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania decided to conduct a small e-cig study to determine if electronic cigarettes might be a more effective alternative.   The study entitled Persisting long term benefits of smoking abstinence and reduction in asthmatic smokers who have switched to electronic cigarettes is readily available on the Discovery Medicine website. 

Overview of the Polosa vaping study

While the control group of the Polosa vaping study was comprised of a relatively small number of 18 asthmatic smokers, the study lasted a full two-years in duration.  The lung functions of each of the patients were measured at the onset of the study and at regular 6-month intervals.  Each participant agreed to make the transition from smoking to vaping throughout the course of the study.  The results were then compared to those of a control group of non-smoking asthmatics.    The respiratory functions measured include the following.

  • Overall lung functions
  • Methacholine PC20, AHR and ACQ levels
  • Airway hyper-responsiveness
  • Asthma control
  • Asthma exacerbations
  • Measurable tobacco consumption levels

At the 6-month, 1-year, 18-months, and 2-year intervals, each participant was also asked to complete a questionnaire related to the progression or digression of their related asthmatic symptoms.  Polosa notes in his report that not all 18 participants successfully made the transition to vaping perfectly.  Some admitted to engaging in dual use, and two of the respondents even confessed to relapsing back into smoking exclusively. 


What the Polosa team discovered is a steady and significant increase in respiratory functions as each of the vaping participants progressed through the study.  For those who admitted to engaging in dual use, the scientists also documented a proportionally positive response in nearly every area of research.  However, for the two participants who returned exclusively to smoking, they experienced deterioration in methacholine PC20 and ACQ scores while also experiencing an exacerbation of asthma-related symptoms at the end of the two-year study.

“The present study confirms that regular EC use ameliorates objective and subjective disease outcomes in asthma and shows that these beneficial effects may persist in the long term. Large controlled studies are now warranted to elucidate the emerging role of the e-vapor category for smoking cessation and/or reversal of harm in asthma patients who smoke. Nonetheless, the notion that substitution of conventional cigarettes with EC is unlikely to raise significant respiratory concerns, can improve counseling between physicians and their asthmatic patients who are using or intend to use ECs.”

Riccardo Polosa and his team also state that they believe vaping can actually reverse the respiratory or lung damage caused by smoking in patients suffering from asthma.  For non-asthmatic vapers, the study is still considered good news.  The underlying conclusion of the report is that vaping is substantially less damaging to the lungs than smoking.


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