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Two-year study shows switching to vaping reverses lung damage in asthmatics

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 25 million or 1 in 13 Americans are living with asthma. That number also translates to about 7.7 percent of the adult population and 8.4 percent of children.  Furthermore, asthma diagnoses have been steadily rising since the 1980s and are expected to continue for the next decade, at least.

Regarding smoking, the CDC also estimates that 17 percent of the adult population are regular smokers.  Yet perhaps more remarkably, that number rises to 21 percent among the asthmatic community, even though research indicates that smoking triggers asthmatic episodes. 

Unfortunately, physical, mental, and emotional stress is also a predominate trigger which is at least partially why so many patients find quitting smoking to be more difficult than non-asthmatics.  Trivia buffs might find it interesting that the state of Kentucky – deep in the heart of tobacco country – has the largest percentage of asthma sufferers who smoke at 32.3 percent.

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For decades, the medical community has taken the position that the respiratory damage caused by asthma is irreparable and progressive.  That is, it only gets worse over time rather than better.  However, a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Catania in Italy suggests that asthmatic smokers who switch to vaping will not only experience a ceasing of progression of their disease, they will very likely see a reversal in lung damage, as well.

Overview of the University of Catalina vaping study

The vaping study entitled Persisting long term benefits of smoking abstinence and reduction in asthmatic smokers who have switched to electronic cigarettes is published in the medical journal Discovery Medicine. Over a two-year timeframe, the Italian researchers monitored the symptoms, episodic events, and medical treatment plans of eighteen asthmatics who smoke.  Under the direction of Dr. Riccardo Polosa, the scientists strongly encouraged the participants to transition to vaping while simultaneously offering medical supervision and support.

As part of their research, the Polosa team conducted extensive evaluation of each participant’s lung functions, respiratory symptoms, level of asthma control, frequency and severity of asthmatic episodes, hyperresponsivity, and daily tobacco consumption.  Other quantifiable biomarkers included FVC, FEV1, FEF25, FEF 50, FEF 75, PEF, FVC, ACQ, and PC20 levels.

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Statistical data was collected in 6-, 12-, and 24-month intervals. Of the original 18 participants, only 2 relapsed completely into smoking, and their related data was immediately rejected from the study’s final analysis and subsequent findings.

According to the study’s co-authors, 65.4 percent of respondents experienced a significant improvement in symptoms. 1.1 percent saw certain specific symptoms worsen, and the success rates were variant depending on dual or exclusive usage of vape products.  They also state that, “taken together, these findings provide emerging evidence that EC (electronic cigarettes) use can reverse harm from tobacco smoking.”

“The observed positive findings in asthma patients who have become regular ECs users are consistent with results from a large internet survey of EC users diagnosed with asthma (Farsalinos et al., 2014a). An improvement in symptoms of asthma after switching was reported in 65.4% of the respondents. Although improved asthma symptoms were more often noted in exclusive EC users, improvement was also often reported by dual users. Worsening after switching was only reported in 1.1% of the asthmatics. Taken together, these findings provide emerging evidence that EC use can reverse harm from tobacco smoking in exclusive EC users as well as in dual users when their level of reduction in cigarette consumption is substantial (i.e., heavy reducers).”

The co-authors readily acknowledge a potential drawback of vaping study – the small size of the number of participants.  Because only 18 asthma patients participated, the researchers acknowledge that they were working under certain “limitations,” and the study’s findings should be “interpreted with caution.”  The Polosa team is currently in the midst of another multi-year research project consisting of a significantly higher number of asthmatic smokers.

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(Images courtesy of Shutterstock)

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