Building on results 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, 44 patients were followed over a three-year period in the earlier study. The latest study essentially picks up where previous research left off – following the progression or divergence of COPD symptoms in the same patient group over the following two years.
In the first project, entitled Health effects in COPD smokers switching to electronic cigarettes: a retrospective-prospective 3-year follow-up (International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), the Polosa team compiled data from clinical trials, suggesting that e-cigarette use COPD patients who smoke may reverse some of the lung damage caused by their condition.
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In the follow-up study, titled COPD smokers who switched to e-cigarettes: health outcomes at 5 years (US 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 the frequency and intensity of COPD episodes. They also reported an increased ability to be physically active and exercise, improved heart health, and a higher quality of life. According to other studies, hospital admissions related to COPD also fell sharply by up to 43 percent.
“Consistent with our previous observations, lung function, respiratory health (i.e., CAT), and physical activity (i.e., 6MWD) consistently improved in COPD patients who quit or significantly reduced cigarette consumption after switching to vaping products. These results are similar to those of COPD patients undergoing intensive rehabilitation programs…
“A key finding of the study is that COPD exacerbations were reduced by approximately 50% in patients who quit or significantly reduced their smoking consumption after switching to vaping. The magnitude of the number of prevented COPD exacerbations in these patients is of clinical importance and is similar to that observed with pharmacologic interventions. Prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke has been shown to increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and respiratory exacerbations, so quitting smoking may reduce these conditions and associated symptoms. In one study, ex-smokers reported a 43% lower risk of COPD-related hospitalizations compared to active smokers.”
39 members of the patient population involved in the initial 3-year study were also involved in the follow-up study. Nineteen participants remained in the smoke-only control group. The other 20 participants had remained smoke-free and were therefore also able to take part in the follow-up study. Only four patients (or about 16.7 percent of the original group) had a relapse into smoking and were subsequently excluded from follow-up research. The average age of all participants is 65 years, which is remarkable.
Science already supports Polosa's COPD vaping research
As the vaping community is aware, there is an overabundance of fake research studies and "news articles" readily available online that have strong anti-vaping biases but no hard evidence to back up their claims. One such study was highlighted in a British newspaper, The Metro, in early 2019, which falsely claimed that vaping was just as deadly as smoking. dr Stephen Andrews of the Science Media Center in London immediately backtracked, saying: "The authors' conclusion contradicts most published research, which suggests that vaping is significantly less dangerous than smoking."
Related article: Scientists debunk 'enigmatic' claims that vaping is as deadly as smoking
Conversely, the Polosa follow-up study is already receiving support from numerous members of the academic and scientific community. dr For example, Annie Kleykamp is a tobacco harm reduction expert and professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In an interview with Filter Magazine, she praised the Polosa research, particularly regarding the importance of involving seniors in the clinical trial.
"This study is very informative because of its prospective design, inclusion of a control group, long-term follow-up and, more importantly, its focus on older smokers… Participants averaged about 65 years of age. This study supports the idea that older smokers who switch to e-cigarettes may improve their health and potentially slow the effects of COPD. … Ideally, studies will be conducted with larger samples that replicate these findings.”
The one from Dr. Riccardo Polosa's 5-year study is the first of its kind and truly historic. But the tobacco control activist seems to be just getting started. In the concluding paragraph of the follow-up study, the co-authors suggest that further research is in progress. "Larger studies are needed to clarify the role of the vape category in smoking cessation and/or harm reversal in smokers with COPD," they write. Wouldn't it be really remarkable if they could visit the same patients again in another five or ten years?
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