The majority of people who successfully switch from cigarette smoking to vaping are less likely to develop respiratory infections, according to a new study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
The study, which involved an on-line survey of 941 respondents, assessed subjective changes in respiratory symptoms in smokers who had switched to vaping for two months or longer. The results show that 66 percent of respondents reported an improvement in respiratory symptoms, 29 percent reported no change and 5 percent reported worsening.
“There is no doubt that e-cigarettes are much safer than conventional cigarettes, but smokers are still led to believe that they’re dangerous,” said senior author Professor Peter Hajek at QMUL.
“This misinformation includes a misreported study on rats that claimed that vaping may increase vulnerability to infections. These new findings from human vapers show that this is not the case.”
Hajek is referring to some previous cell and animal studies that were interpreted to suggest that vaping may increase vulnerability to infection, but these studies did not use realistic exposure levels.
Furthermore, human trials have found no significant adverse respiratory effects tied to e-cigarette use for up to 1.5 years, and a follow-up study of smokers with asthma who switched to vaping found significant improvements.
While the new study still needs to be interpreted with caution since it is based on self-reported data, Hajek said that the “present results provide sufficient information to suggest that vaping does not increase infection rates and may in fact lead to a decrease in infections.” Further studies using objective measures will help confirm the results.
The researchers say that it is not surprising that the participants noticed improvements in their respiratory health.
It is well known that smoking cigarettes increases susceptibility to respiratory infections and that quitting smoking can be expected to have a positive effect. In addition to this, vaping may also provide some antimicrobial protection through the e-liquid ingredient propylene glycol, though further evidence is needed to confirm this.
The main limitation of the study is that the reports are subjective. Future studies should assess respiratory symptoms objectively and on unselected samples of vapers.
Despite the limitations, the researchers say that the study provides reasonable reassurance that vaping does not promote respiratory infections and that it may, in fact, play a role in reducing them.
The findings are published in the Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy.