Research – Vaping and the Airways

Posted 28th September 2016 by Dave Cross
Nicotine is the addictive component of cigarettes but it’s the other products of tobacco combustion that lead to illnesses and death. Vaping offers an exciting alternative because it does away with the smoke-related carcinogens. A team including Riccardo Polosa has released a study looking at the effects on the airway due to switching to electronic cigarettes.

Riccardo Polosa has been linked with many pieces of vape-related research. Just last year he was responsible for the production of a paper titled Electronic cigarette use and harm reversal: emerging evidence in the lung. In it, he stated: “Compared to combustible cigarettes, e-vapor products are at least 96% less harmful and may substantially reduce individual risk and population harm. The emerging evidence that EC use can reverse harm from tobacco smoking should be taken into consideration by regulatory authorities seeking to adopt proportional measures.”

In the latest study, the team of Italians (with a Canadian) sought to look at the under investigated subject of lung function: “Here we illustrate long-term changes in spirometric indices as well as in respiratory symptoms in smokers invited to quit or reduce their cigarette consumption by switching to electronic cigarettes. Prospective evaluation of cigarette consumption, spirometry and symptoms was performed in a 1-year randomized controlled trial of smokers receiving electronic cigarette containing 2.4%, 1.8%, or 0% nicotine.”

People taking part in the study had their lung function record. In addition, reported incidents of coughing, phlegm production, wheezing, chest pressure, and shortness of breath were noted.  All participants were then measured after one year to give long-term results.  At the completion of the study the participants were divided into three groups:

  • Quitters who had totally quit smoking but still vaped.
  • Reducers who had lowered the number of cigarettes smoked per day but still vaped (commonly referred to as dual fuelling).
  • Failures who had stopped vaping and returned to their old smoking habit.

Quitting or reducing the number of cigarettes smoked did not alter large airway function, but ex-smokers who were still vaping recorded huge improvements in small airway function. Also noted, there was a marked reduction in cough frequency, phlegm production and shortness of breath in both the Quit and Reducer groups. No improvements in readings were recorded for the Failure group.

The American Association for Science and Health report: “The study results suggest that completely abstaining from combustible cigarettes may benefit even healthy smokers reverse some subtle lung changes.   In those struggling to quit smoking, even reducing exposure to daily cigarette smoke can have a measurable impact on quality of life.”


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker