A new study done by researchers from the University of Athens in Greece, evaluated the short term effects of electronic cigarette vapor on airway resistance. The general conclusion was that vaping caused increased resistance on the airway. But lets look at the actual numbers and the real life implications.
The first point is the extremely small sample size. The study only included 8 people who had never smoked and 24 smokers. Of the 24 smoker subjects, 11 had normal lung function and 13 people had either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. 32 people out of millions of people already using e-cigarettes seems like an insignificant sample.
The second point to consider is that in the study, the e-cigarette caused an immediate increase in airway resistance buy only lasted for 10 minutes. This study did not look at the long term effects, which is the major issue with tobacco smoking. It is widely known that tobacco smoking does immediately effect the lungs, but provided the smoking is discontinued, over time the lungs return to normal or almost normal.
Here are the numbers, as presented at European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Vienna. In non smokers, the mean average went from 182% to 206%. In smokers with no known lung issues, there was an increase in the mean average of 176% to 220%. And in those subjects with COPD and asthma patients the use of one e-cigarette seemed to have no immediate effect to airway resistance. These figures were deemed to be statistically significant although the margin for error was not given and based on the small sample size, we have to assume it was large.
The final point is what one of the lead researchers, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, said at the conference:
“Electronic cigarettes are not a healthy habit but they are a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Considering the extreme hazards associated with cigarette smoking, currently available data suggest that electronic cigarettes are far less harmful and substituting tobacco with electronic cigarettes may be beneficial to health.”
This was based on comparing the effects of e-cigarettes on the heart compared to tobacco use. In the case of tobacco cigarettes, they increase blood pressure and heart rate as expected. The e-cigarette only increased these factors slightly.
And that is the real point. Vaping is an activity that is a direct competitor or substitute for smoking. Evaluating the electronic cigarette on it’s own is important. But equally important is comparing it to tobacco smoking. And what every study to date has concluded is that using an e-cigarette have very slight short term health implications with no known long term effects (since e-cigarettes have only been used widely since 2007). But when compared to tobacco cigarettes it is clear that vaping wins hands down.