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Can vaping reverse lung damage caused from asthma? Scientists say 'maybe.'

Doctors of smokers who also suffer from asthma often have a very difficult time counseling their patients on how to best quit smoking. Since stress and anxiety are leading contributing factors to asthmatic flair-ups, physicians are often torn. Should they instruct their patients to quit smoking in any way possible and manage the increased asthma attacks as best that they can? Or should patients keep smoking and damaging their already fragile lungs?

It’s a catch-22, really. But a new vaping study out of Italy is offering physicians of asthmatic patients new hope. The study entitled, Persisting long term benefits of smoking abstinence and reduction in asthmatic smokers who have switched to electronic cigarettes authored by Professor Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania, and the full report is readily available on the Discovery Medicine website.

Vaping and asthma: The research

The research team began by tracking specific biomarkers of some 18 asthmatic patients who were also active, daily smokers. The participants were asked to switch from smoking to vaping for a full two years. Meanwhile, the scientific team led by Dr. Polosa measured these numerous biomarkers for each participant multiple times throughout the course of the vaping study. Asthmatic symptoms and outbreaks were also recorded. The biomarkers measured included the following.

  • Overall lung and respiratory functions
  • Rates and severity of asthma attacks
  • Methacholine ACQ and PC20 scores
  • Consumption levels of smoking vs. vaping vs. nicotine percentages
  • Hyper-responsivity rates of participants’ respiratory and lung passageways

The Polosa team readily admits that not all of the eighteen patients were successful in making a permanent transition to vaping over the two-year project. In fact, two patients relapsed into smoking almost immediately. Even so, the scientists managed to record some rather remarkable results.

“The present study confirms that regular EC use ameliorates objective and subjective disease outcomes in asthma and shows that these beneficial effects may persist in the long term. Large controlled studies are now warranted to elucidate the emerging role of the e-vapor category for smoking cessation and/or reversal of harm in asthma patients who smoke. Nonetheless, the notion that substitution of conventional cigarettes with EC is unlikely to raise significant respiratory concerns, can improve counseling between physicians and their asthmatic patients who are using or intend to use ECs.”

While this study is only the first in a long series of much-need scientific research projects regarding the subject of vaping and asthma, Polosa notes that the results show great promise. Of the two participants who relapsed back into smoking, both experienced considerable additional damage to lung tissue and significant deterioration in their methacholine PC20 and ACQ scores. Meanwhile, the participants who successfully transitioned to vaping from smoking experienced tremendous improvement in both areas.

According to the conclusion section of the Polosa research paper, the results of this study suggest that vaping might eventually be proven to be a contributing factor in reversing lung damage in asthmatic patients. The Polosa also notes that more research is still needed.