The team from the University of Catania studied 44 patients diagnosed with a form of COPD. They looked at objective and subjective respiratory parameters over a long-term period.
Half of the study group had switched to vaping or were reducing smoking by ‘dual fuelling’. The other half, the control group, were not vapers at the start of the project.
After three years, the research team found that vaping helped patients:
- Significantly reduced conventional cigarette use (from a mean of 21.9 cigarettes/day at baseline to a mean of 2/day at 1-year follow-up)
- Had respiratory infections and COPD exacerbations that were markedly attenuated, and their respiratory physiology was not worsened by EC use
- Showed consistently improved overall health status and physical activity
- Relapsed to conventional cigarette smoking at a low rate (8.3%)
Dual fuellers who continued to smoke had reduced their tobacco cigarette consumption by “at least 75%.”
Patients with COPD have proven themselves to be reluctant to quit smoking, and the relapsing rate among those who attempt smoking cessation is high.
The benefits of swapping to vaping is clear: “In a cohort of regular [ecig] users with COPD, abstaining from smoking or substantially reducing cigarette consumption ameliorates quality of life as well as respiratory outcomes in COPD and that these positive effects persist long-term. This is in agreement with the notion that quitting smoking is a key strategy not only to prevent the onset of COPD but also to stop its progression into more severe disease stages.”
The paper’s authors write: "While the sample size in the study was relatively small, the results may provide preliminary evidence that long-term use of ECs is unlikely to result in substantial health concerns in COPD patients."
Polosa said: "Quitting smoking is a key strategy not only to prevent the onset of COPD but also to stop its progression to more severe disease stages. Given that many COPD patients continue smoking despite their symptoms, the electronic cigarette could be an effective and safe alternative to the tobacco cigarettes also in this vulnerable population. Over an observation period of 3 years, only two patients (8.3%) relapsed to cigarette smoking, and both patients were dual users.”
The paper calls for further studies to explore the benefits of encouraging COPD sufferers to switch to vaping.