Building upon findings published over two years ago, new research confirms that smokers living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience dramatic improvements in respiratory health by switching to vaping. Led by world-renowned public health expert and tobacco harm reduction specialist Dr. Riccardo Polosa, the earlier study followed 44 patients over a period of three years. The latest study essentially picks up where the prior research ended – following the progression or digression of COPD symptoms in the same group of patients over the succeeding two years.
In the initial project entitled Health effects in COPD smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes: a retrospective-prospective 3-year follow-up (International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), the Polosa team compiled clinical trial data suggesting that e-cigarette use among smoking COPD patients can reverse some of the lung damage caused by their disorder.
In the follow-up study entitled, COPD smokers who switched to e-cigarettes: health outcomes at 5-year follow up (U.S. Library of Medicine) which tracks the progress of the same patients two years later, the scientists found that the patients reported experiencing a 50 percent reduction in frequency and intensity of COPD episodes. They also reported an increased capacity for physical activity and exercise, improved heart health, and a higher quality of life. COPD-related hospitalizations also dropped sharply by as much as 43 percent, according to other research.
“In agreement with our previous observations, lung function, respiratory health (i.e. CAT) and physical activity (i.e. 6MWD) improved consistently in COPD patients who quit or reduced substantially cigarette consumption after switching to vaping products. These results are similar to those of COPD patients undergoing intensive rehabilitation programs…
“A major finding of the study is that COPD exacerbations were reduced by approximately 50% in patients who stopped or considerably reduced their smoking consumption after switching to vaping. The magnitude of the number of COPD exacerbations prevented in these patients is of clinical significance and similar to that observed with pharmacological interventions. Prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke has been demonstrated to increase susceptibility to airway infection and respiratory exacerbations so that quitting smoking may reduce these conditions and related symptoms. Former smokers in one study reported a 43% lower risk for COPD-related hospitalizations compared with active smokers.”
39 members of the patient group involved in the initial 3-year study were also involved in the follow-up study. 19 participants remained in the control group of smokers-only. The other 20 participants had remained smoke-free, thereby allowing them to participate in the follow-up, as well. Only four patients (or about 16.7 percent of the original group) had relapsed into smoking, and they were subsequently rejected from the follow-up research. The average age of all participants is 65 years, which is significant.
Academia is already endorsing Polosa’s COPD-vaping research
As the vaping community is well-aware, there are an overabundance of bogus research studies and “news articles” readily available online that have a strong anti-vaping bias but lack substantive evidence to back-up their assertions. One such study was highlighted in a British newspaper The Metro in early 2019 falsely claiming that vaping is just as deadly as smoking. Dr. Stephen Andrews of the Science Media Centre in London immediately pushed back, saying ”the authors’ conclusion is inconsistent with most published research which indicates that vaping is significantly less hazardous than smoking.”
Conversely, the Polosa follow-up study is already receiving endorsements from numerous members of the academic and scientific communities. For example, Dr. Annie Kleykamp is a tobacco harm reduction expert and professor of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In an interview with Filter Magazine, she applauded the Polosa research, especially regarding the significance of inclusion of senior citizens in the clinical trial.
“This study is very informative due to its prospective design, inclusion of a control group, long-term follow-up, and even more importantly, its focus on older smokers…Participants were on average about 65 years old. This study gives support to the idea that older smokers switching to e-cigarettes can improve their health and potentially slow the effects of COPD. … Ideally, larger-sample studies will be completed that replicate these findings.”
The 5-year study conducted by Dr. Riccardo Polosa is the first of its kind and truly historic. But the tobacco control activist appears to be only getting started. In the closing paragraph of the follow-up study, the co-authors suggest that more research is in the works. “Larger studies will be required to clarify the role of the e-vapour category for smoking cessation and/or harm reversal in smokers with COPD,” they write. Wouldn’t it be truly remarkable if they could re-visit with these same patients in another five or ten years?
Related Article: NYU scientists refute FDA claims of a ‘teen vaping epidemic’
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