The study of never-smoking daily vapers used repeated lung function tests over 3.5 years to produce their results
Two of the oldest and most common arguments against vaping is that it is detrimental to lung function, as well as being a gateway to smoking. While they have both been a stout objection to e-cigarettes, they took a shot last week, when renowned tobacco control researcher, Dr. Riccardo Polosa, and his team released a new long-term study, the first of its kind.
They wanted to look exclusively at the effect of vaping on lung function, and not the impact of switching to vaping from smoking. To do this, they found a group of never-smoking individuals, who also had all been vaping every day for at least three months. The team had different tests done several times over the course of three and a half years. This study was the first to tease out the specific effects of vaping on otherwise untouched respiratory systems. Their results were nothing less than amazing for vapers everywhere; no differences were found between the test group and control group, even among the heaviest vapers.
The Long-Term Study
A lot of the research relating to vaping released has been short term. This is understandable, given how new of a product vaping still is. But some researchers have made it their mission to look at the long-term effects of vaping as best as they can. The latest piece of long-term research is especially important because it’s the first to study vaping’s effects in individuals who have never smoked.
The team led by Dr. Polosa recorded different health outcomes for each participant. These included blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide, exhaled carbon monoxide, and high-resolution computed tomography of the lungs. They were also asked to self-report how their breathing felt, which was referenced in subsequent interviews.
The test group was relatively small, even considering how small a percentage of daily vapers are also never-smokers. The vaping group contained only 16 participants, while the control group had 15 that were age and sex matched to the test group. Only participants who completed the entire three and a half year study were included in the results. Some were excluded for not showing up to check-ins, while some did not comply with the testing parameters.
What’s interesting to note is that of all 31 never-smoking participants, none of the vaping group picked up smoking traditional cigarettes. This is telling when compared with the control group, which had two never-smoking, non-vaping participants start smoking. So even over several years of use, it does not appear that vaping directly leads to smoking.
The results of their research were published just last week in the scientific reports on nature.com. Not only did they not find any discernable changes in respiratory function, but in fact, none of the tested parameters showed signs of being negatively affected by years of vaping. The researchers said, “we found no decrements in spirometric indices, development of respiratory symptoms, changes in markers of lung inflammation in exhaled air or findings of early lung damage on HRCT, when compared with a carefully matched group of never-smoking non-EC users.”
This held true for even the heaviest of vapers. Researchers claimed that even in those cases, they did not find any signs of lung damage in any test. However, they did acknowledge some limitations of their research. These included the small test group size, as well as being focused on a tiny group of vapers, those who are also never-smokers. Nevertheless, this still provides a lot of precious information for the entire vaping community. For instance, indicating that negative results in similar studies may just be the result of smoking damage accumulated before participants switched to vaping.
Regardless of the limitations, this study is a big step forward. It’s the first in hopefully a trend of long-term research focused on the effects of vaping separate from smoking altogether. This shift in focus could help differentiate smoking and vaping in the public eye, leading to a better public perception. Currently, even in the most pro-vaping countries like the UK, polls show that only a small percentage of people believe that it is less dangerous than smoking (almost twice as many think it’s just as, if not more dangerous).
As all researchers are entirely willing to admit, the book is far from closed on the potential risks of vaping over a lifetime. But studies like this proves that believing smoking and vaping to have the same amount of risk is utterly false. So those of us who understand the truth must spread research like Dr. Polosa’s, that clearly indicates the dramatic harm reduction value of vaping over smoking.
How many people do you know that think vaping and smoking have a similar risk? Do you think it’s essential to research never-smoking vapers, even though they make up a very small percentage of total vapers? Is changing the public’s poor perception of vaping critical to help it keep growing? Let us know in the comments.