In a commentary published yesterday in BMC Medicine, Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania reviews existing evidence regarding the respiratory effects of electronic cigarette use. He concludes that switching to electronic cigarettes "can reverse harm from tobacco smoking."
The key findings were as follows:
"Long-term changes in lung function have been monitored for up to 1 year in a large
group of ‘healthy’ smokers who were invited to quit or reduce their tobacco consumption
by switching to a first generation EC. Significant early positive changes from baseline
of a sensitive measure of obstruction in the more peripheral airways (i.e., forced
expiratory flow measured between 25% and 75% of FVC) were already detected at 3 months
after switching in those who completely gave up tobacco smoking, with steady progressive
improvements being observed also at 6 and 12 months (Polosa R, unpublished observation)." ...
"In the only clinical study conducted to ascertain efficacy and safety of EC
use in asthma, substantial improvements in respiratory physiology and subjective asthma
outcomes have been reported . Exposure to e-vapor in this vulnerable population did not trigger any asthma attacks." ...
"The reported improvements of respiratory patients who have become regular ECs users
are consistent with findings from a large internet survey of regular EC users diagnosed
with asthma and COPD . An improvement in symptoms of asthma and COPD after switching was reported in 65.4%
and 75.7% of the respondents, respectively."
Dr. Polosa concludes that: "Taken together, these findings provide emerging evidence
that EC use can reverse harm from tobacco smoking."
The Rest of the Story
It is important to note that among the asthmatic smokers that Dr. Polosa studied, improvement in respiratory symptoms and lung function were observed even among dual users. This finding demonstrates that contrary to the claims of many anti-smoking advocates, the substantial reduction in cigarette consumption that often results from e-cigarette trial is associated with health improvement.
This should dispel the myth being propagated by the anti-smoking community that dual use is a negative outcome of electronic cigarette use among smokers. On the contrary, cigarette smokers who become vapers appear to experience substantial improvement in their respiratory health, even if they are unable to quit smoking completely.
This research also provides important evidence that electronic cigarettes are beneficial for the public's health, a key criterion that has to be met in order for these products to be approved as "new tobacco products" under the proposed FDA deeming regulations.