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E-Cigarettes with COPD.

What are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol. For these systems, the aerosol is more commonly referred to as a vapor.

These devices typically contain nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. They are marketed to resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars, and/or pipes. They are even manufactured to look like everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks. Other devices, such as those with refillable reservoirs, may look different, but are also on the market. Regardless of their design and appearance, these devices generally operate in a similar manner and are made of similar components.

How do e-cigarettes work?

Most e-cigarettes consist of four different components. The components include:

  1. A cartridge or reservoir, which holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and/or other chemicals
  2. A heating element, which is the atomizer. The atomizer produces the aerosol or vapor for inhalation
  3. A power source, which is usually a battery. This actually supplies the atomizer with the
    necessary electrical current to function
  4. A mouthpiece. This is the device a person uses to inhale from the e-cigarette

In many e-cigarettes, puffing on the mouthpiece activates the battery-powered heating device, which then vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The person then inhales the resulting aerosol or vapor. This is what is known as ‘vaping’.

What are the health effects of e-cigarettes?

Research so far suggests that e-cigarettes might be less harmful than cigarettes when people who regularly smoke switch to them as a complete replacement. But nicotine, in any form, is a highly addictive substance. Research also suggests that using e-cigarettes can prime the brain’s reward system. In so doing it can put people who use them at risk for addiction to other drugs.

How do e-cigarettes affect the brain?

The nicotine in e-liquids readily absorbs into the bloodstream when a person uses an e cigarette. Upon entering the blood, nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate.

The stimulated adrenal glands also release dopamine in the brain. The activity of dopamine in the brain’s reward system motivates some people to use the nicotine over and over again, despite the potential risks to their health and well being.

Can e-cigarettes help a person to quit smoking?

One school of thought is that e-cigarettes may help lower the nicotine cravings in those who are trying to quit smoking. The marketing of e-cigarettes promote its use as a method to help smokers quit or reduce their reliance on the use of tobacco. As mentioned above, inhaling from an e-cigarette is a process which is called vaping. When you inhale from an e-cigarette, you are not inhaling smoke. You’re inhaling an aerosol (water vapor) and a mixture of chemicals. The liquid in many e-cigarettes contains nicotine. When you exhale the vapor, others can breathe in this mixture. This is similar to what we all know as ‘second-hand smoke’. Besides e-cigarettes, there are other devices that can be used for vaping.

When nicotine is part of the system, for the purposes of this essay, the intent is the same.
It should be well noted that e-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved quitting aid. In addition there is no conclusive scientific evidence on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for long-term smoking cessation. There are however, seven FDA-approved quitting aids that are proven safe which can be effective when used as directed. More research is needed to determine if e-cigarettes may be as effective as smoking cessation aids already approved by the FDA.

Can e-cigarettes (vaping) cause COPD?

There is a lack of scientific data on the health effects of e-cigarettes used among smokers with COPD and whether regular use results in improvement in subjective and objective COPD outcomes. In one small study from 2016, it was found that vaping e-cigarette fluids containing nicotine triggered the effects associated with the development of COPD. This included lung inflammation and destruction of lung tissue. The study used cultured human lung cells and mice. Both were found to be nicotine- dependent by the end of the study.

There hasn’t been enough research on the general health risks of vaping or whether it can increase your chances of developing COPD. However, it seems reasonable to conclude there is nothing related to the use of e-cigarettes that can contribute towards the improvement of COPD symptoms for patients with the disease. As well, if e-cigarettes can predispose someone towards smoking, it would be prudent to avoid their use.

What’s this mean?

E-cigarettes haven’t been thoroughly evaluated in scientific studies. For now, not enough data exists on the safety of e-cigarettes, how the health effects compare to traditional cigarettes, and if they are helpful for people trying to quit smoking. For those of us in our online community, it would seem most prudent to stop smoking by traditional FDA-approved means and not venture into the world of e- cigarettes at all.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Evidence for harm reduction in COPD smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5162097/ (Accessed September 2017)
  2. Vaping and COPD: Is There a Connection? http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/vaping-and- copd#overview1 (Accessed September 2017)
  3. Chronic electronic cigarette exposure in mice induces features of COPD in a nicotine-dependent manner http://thorax.bmj.com/content/71/12/1119 (Accessed September 2017)
  4. Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigarettes) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes- e-cigarettes (Accessed September 2017)
  5. Vapes, E-Cigs, Hookah Pens, and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) https://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/labeling/productsingredientscomponents/ucm456610.htm (Accessed September 2017)
  6. Nicotine Replacement Therapy for Quitting Tobacco https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away- from-tobacco/guide- quitting-smoking/nicotine- replacement-therapy.html (Accessed September 2017)
  7. Smoking Cessation Products https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm198176.htm (Accessed September 2017)

Comments

  • sardonicus
    6 months ago

    Leon: Just read the article you gave me. I really dont know what I will do. About 2 months ago I ran into a guy I used to work with. He was a 2 pack a day man and told me every morning he would cough up gallons of phlegm and since he switched to vaping he does not cough at all. He was smoking something that looked like a cross between a pipe and a test tube. Not very appealing to me. Anyway thanks for the info…sardonicus

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hi sardonicus and thanks for your post. Glad you read the article. You will certainly find varying opinions out there when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping. The choice is yours. As previously mentioned (in our other conversation), you may want to discuss this with your physician. One way or another, I know you realize and understand that you ‘have to’ quit smoking. We’re here to provide support in any way we can. Ultimately, the decision will be yours. Good luck moving forward! Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    6 months ago

    I get it, sardonicus and appreciate your patience and all you’re managing now.
    I’m going to give this puzzle of ‘what happened to your story’ over to our site leads. They may be able to do some detective work and provide us with an answer.
    Hang in there and have a good night.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • sardonicus
    6 months ago

    Leon: I submitted my story the first time when I first joined. It was from an email you sent me where it said “click here to submit your personal story. That did not work so I went to the story site and went directly to the send box that said submit. That was about 3 days ago. I will try clicking on that address you sent me tomorrow. I am too tired right now. You know clinical depression, emphysema and everything else…..sardonicus

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hi sardonicus and thanks for your recent inquiry about your story.
    You can submit your story to the ‘stories’ section which you can access here:https://copd.net/stories/.
    Now, I’m a bit confused. Did you submit your story to that section?
    If so, when did you submit it?
    Please let me know.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • sardonicus
    6 months ago

    Now I am really confused Leon. Some guys story was submitted a couple of hours ago. Where is my story. Did I break a rule or something?….sardonicus

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi sardonicus! You didn’t break a rule at all – no worries! Your story was just posted. Sometimes it takes a few days to review and post based on other stories in the queue. I hope this makes sense! And thank you so so much for sharing your story with us. We appreciate you being part of the community. – Alesandra (COPD.net Team)

  • Susanmarie
    2 years ago

    Hello Leon, thank you for this link, I personally will not be trying e cigs or other such things to help me quit smoking, I don,t want to put anything else into my lungs along with all my inhalers. I do not mean to sound predantic , but we all react differently to different chemicals, ie, some of us are allergic to antibiotics some of us are not. I do not want to chance making my lungs any worse than they are. If I can be honest I am affraid of the unknown going into my airways, I think this is because I have not yet had my lung function test, I do not know what my lung volume is or the extent of any lung damage, so untill I have the test done I just want to air on the side of caution. However I found the information provided very useful, once again thank you

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    It’s my pleasure, Susanmarie. The ideas you’ve expressed appear to be ‘spot on’ from my perspective. Being cautious and evaluative of what you allow into your pulmonary system can only work to your complete advantage. Once you have the PFT results, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect moving forward.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    It’s my pleasure, Susanmarie. Best of luck with your appointment to quit smoking. Please do check back and let us know how you’re doing.
    Warmly,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Susanmarie
    2 years ago

    Thank you Leon, I have not used the vape, but still having some ciggies, so I have made an appointment with quit 51 clinic, so fingers crossed this will work for me.

  • Lazy T
    2 years ago

    Well, doggone…I guess you have lost me with the moderators comment. “Although we also value your opinion of the photo/picture, it is representative of YOUR opinion and not everyone’s.” Bye

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Lazy T – it certainly was NOT my intention to offend you in any way. If that is the way you took it, I apologize to you. As Jenn has said, if you do decide to leave, we will certainly miss you and your input. We do value you as a member of our community.
    Warmest regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Jenn Patel
    2 years ago

    Hi Lazy T – I’m so sorry to hear that. I understand that you feel insulted and while I know this is not what the moderator intended, it’s totally your decision. If you decide to leave, we will miss you! Warmly, Jenn (COPD.net Team)

  • Lazy T
    2 years ago

    I was a heavy (2 pack a day) smoker for many, many years. I have been smoke free now for the past five years, thanks to e-cigs. While I am n o t recommending for everyone, there is a story you folks missed here. There are varying degrees of nicotine in the liquid in e-cigs. One can gradually step down the nicotine content…until reaching 0 nicotine. It did work for me, and I understand the jury is still out on a lot of studies. Most communities seem to post the negative edge which might cause someone to not try it. I see you are recommending only the FDA approved methods. I tried all of those-they did not work for me. As a matter of fact, one of the methods caused some temporary psycological (sp) changes in my behavior. As with any addition there are going to be withdrawal symptoms…the e-cig seemed to work for me.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Lazy T and thanks for your comment. We do appreciate everyone’s opinion as well as their shared experiences. Not everything works for everyone. By the same token, what works for some does not necessarily work for others. Although we also value your opinion of the photo/picture, it is representative of your opinion and not everyone’s. Thanks again for your input.
    Regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Lazy T
    2 years ago

    btw your photo is offensive.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Lazy T and thanks for clarifying that!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Lazy T
    1 year ago

    I was making reference to the caricature depicted in the article…not the moderator picture.

  • blackjack
    2 years ago

    It seems to me that E-cigarettes are for those who would really like to quit but without the “pain” of withdrawals to a possible misguided notion that young smokers stand a less chance of addiction.and can quit easily. Perhaps I’m wrong but it’s the way I perceive it.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi blackjack and thanks for expressing your view about e-cigarettes. There is no right or wrong as to how to look at e-cigarettes – it may work for some while for others it may not.
    It’s always best, if one is looking to quit smoking, to consult with a medical professional who can guide them through it.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

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