Vaping and Asthma: Can Vaping Reverse Lung Damage?

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Smokers with asthma may be able to improve their symptoms by switching to e-cigarettes. This breakthrough discovery follows the heels of growing evidence that transitioning from tobacco to e-cigs can improve health outcomes for COPD patients as well. Increasing evidence suggests that not only is vaping safer than smoking, but switching to e-cigs could help people heal from tobacco-use and begin to reverse lung damage incurred.

Can Vaping Reduce the Risks of Asthma in Smokers?

To understand the relationship between vaping and asthma, a team led by professor Riccardo Polosa recruited 18 asthma patients with a history of both tobacco and electronic cigarette use. Each patient had smoked about one pack per day prior to the study. Ten participants gave up tobacco completely for e-cigs during the study. The remaining eight reduced their tobacco intake by alternating between smoking and vaping.

Patient symptoms were measured with a questionnaire and lung function tests at the beginning of the study, at six months, 12 months and 24 months. Between initial visits and follow-ups, all participants experienced significant improvements on all measures. Researchers were surprised that even the subjects who continued to use tobacco occasionally felt better after starting to use e-cigarettes. Vaping more helped people smoke less, which in turn reduced the intensity of their asthma symptoms. 

Can Vaping Reverse Lung Damage from Smoking?

Can vaping reverse lung damage from smoking?

The results of the study mentioned above also suggested COPD sufferers who switch from smoking to vaping could see improvements in symptoms as well. Although no formal studies have been conducted on e-cigarette usage among COPD patients, there is evidence from a case series involving three smokers with COPD who reported a reduction symptoms and an overall significant increase in quality of life.

Additionally, a worldwide Internet survey of more than 19,000 consumers found that 76 percent of former smokers with COPD reported an improvement in symptoms after switching to e-cigs, including improvements in breathing, olfactory and gustatory senses, endurance and physical status in general. More than a third of participants also stated they were able to decrease or cease using prescribed medications altogether, and only about 0.8% of COPD sufferers noted worsening of symptoms.

Can Vaping Harm the Lungs?

With more and more research suggesting quitting smoking with electronic cigarettes may reverse lung damage, you’d think the above question is on its way to being answered. If you enter that question into any search engine, you’ll most likely come up with pages of articles claiming electronic cigarettes can harm the lungs. So why does so much negative press about e-cigs persist, despite evidence suggesting otherwise? Unfortunately, not all medical professionals are on board with tobacco harm reduction. In a press release accompanying a study about the effects of e-cigarettes on epithelial cells, professor of pathology Dr. Jessica Wang-Rodriquez stated, “I believe [using electronic cigarettes] are no better than smoking regular cigarettes.”

The study actually found that, while long-term exposure to high concentrations of vapor can alter epithelial cell cultures in a laboratory setting, “e-cigarette aerosol had much lower cytotoxicity than the tobacco smoke,” which is the opposite of what Dr. Wang-Rodriquez said in the release. Before the researcher could publicly clarify her statement, media outlets had already had a field day with sensationalist headlines such as “E-cigarettes are no safer than smoking tobacco, scientists warn.” That article was posted in December of 2015, months after Public Health England’s evidence-based report on e-cig safety declared e-cigs to be 95 percent safer than tobacco. This latest episode of scaremongering shows how one person’s misspeaking can set back public opinion by a decade.

Related: Studies Continue to Suggest E-cig Vapor is Less Harmful than Tobacco Smoke

With the vast amount of reporting on this misinterpreted study, the results of similar studies conducted year after year have been buried under a mountain of uncertainty. Such studies have actually found the exact opposite of the conclusion mentioned above, all with similar findings that suggest e-cig vapor is no more harmful than the air we breathe. With strong opposing views on how e-cis affects the lungs, it’s obvious continued research is needed to uncover the truth about vaping.