Last week, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) announced that the use of e-cigarettes increases the chances of being diagnosed with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  However, past research indicates that the exact opposite is more likely to be true.  For example, a prior study conducted by researchers from the University of Catania in Italy shows that smokers suffering from asthma see tremendous progress in the number and severity of asthma attacks when they switch to vaping.

The trouble with these Johns Hopkins Studies is that they almost always fail to take into consideration the vaping and medical histories of the participants involved in their research. In the latest JHU paper published on January 7, the researchers collected data from self-professed smokers-turned-vapers between 2016 and 2017.

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Unfortunately, the JHU team once again failed to ask those participants in the beginning stages if they had ever smoked combustible tobacco products or if they already had any prior histories of asthma attacks.  Furthermore, all “findings” were the results of self-reported data by the participants– meaning that the researchers never verified if the information given was indeed true and factual. 

CASAA weighs in

When the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association discovered the JHU vaping study online, a CASAA representative lambasted the report as “junk science”  In a Facebook posting on January 8, the vaping advocacy group said, “VAPE JUNK SCIENCE: Cross-sectional data can’t show causation. Smoking and asthma were self-reported (very unreliable.) Most importantly, authors DON’T KNOW if subjects had asthma BEFORE they [started] vaping! The GOOD NEWS being ignored by authors and media is that just 0.8% never-smokers vaped!”

Meanwhile, the University of Catalina researchers considered all of these pertinent factors before conducting its research and publishing any findings.  The peer-reviewed paper entitled Persisting long term benefits of smoking abstinence and reduction in asthmatic smokers who have switched to electronic cigarettes is available in the medical journal Discovery Medicine.

The Italian scientists began by selecting eighteen participants, each of whom had prior histories of asthma and active, daily smoking of combustible tobacco.  None of them had prior histories of vaping. 

Italian research indicated switching to vaping improves asthma health

The Italian study lasted a full two-years.  The participants were encouraged to switch from smoking to vaping while the research team periodically monitored several biomarkers which included the following.

  • Forced vital capacity (FVC)
  • Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1)
  • Forced Expiratory Flow (FEF) 25-50-75
  • Forced vital capacity (FVC) 
  • Peak Expiratory Flow rates (PEF)
  • ACQ
  • the provocative concentration of meth-acholine that results in a 20% drop in FEV1Hyper-responsiveness (PC20)
  • Asthma exacerbation rates
  • Airway responsivity rates
  • Asthma attacks and management rates
  • Comparative daily rates of smoking vs. vaping
  • Overall breathing and respiratory functions

At six-month intervals, each of the eighteen participants were called into the University of Catalina for medical and scientific evaluations.  Observational studies were also conducted to determine any digression or improvements in breathing and respiratory functions.

Each participant also completed an extensive questionnaire related to their asthma attacks, daily asthma management routine, and overall health. The results of the questionnaire were then comparatively analyzed and confirmed or negated based on the in-lab medical evaluations and observational studies.     

Each of the eighteen participants were also provided the same vaping device and e-liquid.  Dual use of both smoking and vaping was discouraged.  Of the original eighteen members, fourteen transitioned completely to vaping.  Two were eventually found to be dual users, and another two individuals remained daily smokers.

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However, all eighteen participants remained in the study, which is noteworthy.  Now the scientists were able to measure and compare results between smokers and vapers.  What the researchers discovered is that the vaping-only group experienced dramatic improvements in their respiratory health.  The two individuals who remained daily smokers saw a steady decline in their respiratory health while the dual users fell somewhere in the middle.

“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 (electronic cigarettes)”

One of the drawbacks of the Italian vaping study is its rather small size of the control group.  Lead author of the paper Dr. Riccardo Polosa makes this clear in the paper’s conclusionary section.  He also states that the team’s goal is to continue the research in future studies using larger numbers of participants and additional analytical parameters. 

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