Is Vaping OK to Help Quit Smoking?
Dear Dr. Mahler:
I have a question about vaping. Is it ok to use a vape when you have COPD when trying to quit smoking?
Daniel from Albuquerque, NM
Your question is a frequent one that I have been asked in my practice. Please read my March 1, 2016, post in response to a question similar to yours, “Can e-cigarettes help to quit smoking?” At the time I wrote that, “The World Health Organization takes the view that there is not enough evidence to recommend e-cigarettes for quitting smoking. In one review, there was no difference in quit smoking rates between those using e-cigarettes and those using nicotine replacement products (as examples, gum and patches).”
To provide an up-to-date answer to your question, I searched PubMed, the online search site for published medical articles. Here is what I found:
Current Perspectives of E-cigarettes in Patients with COPD
A recent review was published in the November 2017 issue of the International Journal of COPD (volume 12; pages 3202-3210) on the topic of your question. The battery of an e-cigarette heats an element that vaporizes a solution of glycerol, propylene glycol, and flavoring with and without nicotine.The authors emphasize that e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and do not rely on combustion to operate. However, they can deliver nicotine that closely matches the rate and level of tobacco cigarettes.
Of interest, the US Food and Drug Administration consider both glycerol and propylene glycol as Generally Recognized as Safe.
In one study, those with COPD who stopped smoking or considerably reduced tobacco consumption by using e-cigarettes were followed for two years. Over this time period, flare-ups of COPD were reduced by 50% and there was an improvement in general health status.
The authors concluded that although e-cigarettes are not risk free, they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Advice From Former-Smoking E-cigarettes Users to Current Smokers
4,192 individuals who quit smoking using e-cigarettes were surveyed online. They were asked to provide advice to current smokers who were considering vaping as a way to help them quit. Their advice covered four themes: 1. Find a combination of vaping device, flavor of e-liquid, and nicotine strength that “works for you”; 2. It is OK to continue to smoke for a while after starting to vape; 3. It is common for people to fail to quit smoking using approved aids (like nicotine patch) before success with e-cigarettes; and 4. Many respondents noted an awareness of improved health and hygiene since switching to vaping.
This reports was published online on August 3, 2017, in the journal Nicotine Tobacco Research (doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntx176
As your have COPD, the most important thing that you do is to quit smoking cigarettes. I advise patients in my practice to quit any way possible. This includes quitting “cold turkey,” use of nicotine patch or gum or lozenges, acupuncture, hypnosis, and prescription medications.
I also support the use of e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes. Why? Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. In contrast, vape smoke contains only three (nicotine, glycerol, and propylene glycol) along with possible flavoring.
Good luck on quitting. Please note, the advice provided is not a substitute for asking your health care professional about your specific situation.
Donald A. Mahler, M.D.
A person vaping e-cigarette.