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03 Apr

Emerging evidence suggests e-cigarettes can reverse harm from tobacco smoking

Posted by Frederick Ling, PhD in Health & Research

Last week, we reported a new study that showed e-cigarettes aerosols contain virtually no toxins. The results from that study were very encouraging as the amount of hazardous and potentially hazardous chemicals detected from e-cigarette vapors were very low. In fact the amount were so low that they were comparable to ambient air.

That study adds to a growing list of evidence that supports the idea that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than conventional cigarettes. However, many questions remain to be answered about the safety of e-cigarette uses. One of the most relevant question is whether regular uses of e-cigarettes result in any harm in the long term, and whether e-cigarette uses bring any health benefits to smokers. As more and more evidence support the fact that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than tobacco cigarettes, it is very unlikely that e-cigarettes will result in more harm than tobacco cigarettes. However, it remains a valid concern as the long term effects of e-cigarettes has not yet been firmly established, and so it remains one of the top questions on the minds of policy makers.

Unfortunately, we are still a very long way to conclusively demonstrate the long term health effects of e-cigarette uses. In particular, a carefully developed clinical study will involve the tracking of hundreds of participants over a very long period of time, sometimes up to several decades. Given these kinds of longitudinal studies require a lot of time to complete, and that e-cigarettes is a relatively new technology, so data from these kinds of studies are not currently available.

What we can do in the meantime, however, is to study the early effects of e-cigarette use. A University of Catania research group recently looked at the early changes in airway function and respiratory symptoms in smokers switching to e-cigarettes. They reported their preliminary findings in the journal BMC Medicine. Early data from their study is very promising and support the idea that e-cigarette uses is beneficial to smokers in relation to respiratory outcomes.

Over a period of up to 12 months, the researchers monitored the long-term changes in lung functions in a large group of healthy smokers who switched over to e-cigarettes. At just 3 months, the researchers are already noticing significant improvements in respiratory function. Steady improvements were also observed at the 6 and 12 months interval.

Separately, they also looked at the effects of e-cigarette uses in smokers with asthma. It has been well established that the inflammatory response to cigarette smoke plays a key role in asthma pathogenesis, and that quitting can significantly improve asthma symptoms and lung function. So the researchers asked if smokers with preexisting asthma conditions can benefit from switching over to e-cigarettes. For the group of asthmatic smokers who switched to e-cigarettes, the researchers noticed significant improvements in lung functions, asthma control and airway hyper-responsiveness.

Together, these studies provide emerging evidence that e-cigarettes can provide health benefits to smokers by reversing part of the harm done by tobacco smoke. Although large scale longitudinal studies are still required to really determine whether e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to tobacco cigarettes and whether smokers can expect any health benefits from switching, preliminary results from these studies so far are providing promising results.

Have you noticed any changes in your health after switching to e-cigarettes? Let me know at frederick@thesteamco.com. I would love to hear your stories.