E-cigarettes are Poor Substitutes for Conventional Smoking in COPD Patients

Ana Belo van Wijk, PhD avatar

by Ana Belo van Wijk, PhD |

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E-cigarettes are not at all beneficial for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients trying to quit smoking or to mitigate the health consequences of nicotine, according to a new study.

The study reporting the findings was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and is titled “Electronic Cigarette Use in U.S. Adults at Risk for or with COPD: Analysis from Two Observational Cohorts.”

The use of e-cigarettes is becoming increasingly popular. However, because their availability is so recent, there is very little information on long-term effects of vaping.

Now, researchers at the UNC School of Medicine analyzed data gathered in two COPD-focused group studies, the COPDGene study and SPIROMICS, originally designed to understand the causes of COPD.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigs in the United States, and it’s unclear what the potential consequences are among smokers at-risk or with COPD,” M. Bradley Drummond, MD, MHS, director of the Obstructive Lung Diseases Clinical and Translational Research Center at the UNC School of Medicine, said in a press release.

“But there is virtually no information available on older individuals at-risk or with COPD. So we’ve leveraged the data that has already been gathered from two existing COPD-focused [groups] as a way to begin to address this lack of information.” Drummond added.

The study’s goal was to determine the use pattern of e-cigarettes, and if this type of device had any beneficial effects on the health of older adults at risk for or with COPD.

To their surprise, researchers found that replacing conventional cigarettes with e-cigarettes did not offer the health benefits that COPD patients were expecting.

“We expected to see that folks who quit combustibles would have decreased symptoms because of their decreased tobacco use, but that wasn’t the case.” Drummond said.

“Individuals who had tried e-cigarettes as a way to reduce their use of conventional cigarettes were actually less likely to reduce their use or quit combustible cigarettes than those who had never tried e-cigarettes,” Drummond added.

Furthermore, patients using both e-cigarettes (vaping) and conventional cigarettes had the worst outcome in the study.

“The data suggests that these dual users are consuming even more nicotine than those who exclusively use conventional cigarettes.” Drummond said.

Researchers will continue to monitor e-cigarette use consequences in COPD patients in order to have clearer and more robust information for COPD patients.

“We can’t study these things fully in two or three years,” Drummond said. “We need 10 or more years to get the fullest picture possible.”

Nonetheless, preliminary results in this 3-year study showed there are no beneficial effects of e-cigarettes for COPD patients.

“Nowhere in these data did we see a potential benefit of e-cigarette use.” Drummond concluded.


Becker Brown avatar

Becker Brown

I quit smoking cigarettes in2012 and started vaping, I have COPD. I do not use nicotine now but still vape because I enjoy it. I have not had 1 upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, Bronchitis or pneumonia since I started vaping. I was constantly sick with one of the above all of the time when I smoked cigarettes. So I am one it has helped and that is a fact!

gary Bradley avatar

gary Bradley

Well i think your full of crap! 4 yrs ago i was diagnosed stage 2 and im still stage 2 ,if i hadnt of quit i would be on oxygen or worse,i vvape i work every day i walk ,i lead a healthy life style ,now my question how many people that have copd are you going to kill because you wont listen to us that have done this successfully? there are thousands .

Mark Hamilton avatar

Mark Hamilton

i have been vaping for over a year now and have grade 1 copd and just recently had my yearly lung function test and was told that after a year on e.cigs my test came out very slightly worse than the previuos yr.the winter is here nearly and already getting nasal and chest congestion and i for one dont feel better for it as i get just as breathless up hills and steps etc.But i will persist with my e.cig and see how the tests come out next yr.

Sharon avatar


I smoked cigarettes for 42 years and coughed and expelled phlegm constantly..even while in bed at night,,five years ago I started using ecigs..after two weeks I stopped coughing completely..I haven't had any respiratory infections in five years but I do have coped from smoking 42 years and was smoking over two packs a day..my coped isn't any better and honestly I think e cigs do lung damage to existing coped patients but I just couldn't stop smoking but using an ecig was easy and cost effective..I'm trying to reduce nicotine strength but I inhaler so I don't expect to improve with the reduction..I hope I can quit the ecig some day but obviously I'm very addicted to nicotine..a word of advice would be to not replace one bad habit with another..I'm sure e cigs are not healthy for those with copd..it's too late for improvement of my lungs but maybe not yours..thanks, Sharon

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