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.