Vaping Vs Smoking – The Effect of Lung Function Amidst COVID-19
Vaping Vs Smoking – The Effect of Lung Function Amidst COVID-19
As the coronavirus pandemic grips the world and many countries are forced into lockdown, we are learning more about the level of damage the virus can do to the human body.
While most people who are infected with COVID-19 show mild symptoms and sometimes no symptoms at all, there is a small percentage of patients who suffer serious respiratory illness which can be fatal.
The following article details the greater risk that traditional tobacco smokers face from viruses like COVID-19 due to diminished lung function.
Effects Of Active & Passive E-cigarette Use On Lung Function
One research paper set out to analyse the short-term impact of active & passive e-cigarette use compared to active & passive cigarette smoking. This was assessed by measuring the serum cotinine concentration (the predominant metabolite of nicotine), exhaled carbon monoxide and assessing lung function through spirometry testing. Spirometry tests the ability to breathe out air in one forced breath and understandably, this depends on the state of the airways.
While the results showed that the serum cotinine levels were similar in the e-cigarette and cigarette smoking cohorts, there were significant differences regarding lung function and exhaled carbon monoxide.
In line with other previously reported studies, spirometry results showed that neither passive nor active e-cigarette use interfered with lung function, whereas cigarette smoking immediately caused a statistically significant decrease in lung function.
Although we know that the development of chronic lung disease happens over a long period, this study represents an important gateway into research by demonstrating that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke stimulates the processes that lead to lung damage, when compared to e-cigarettes.
Long-term Effects of Transitioning From Smoking to E-cigarettes On Breathomics
A different study aimed to identify long-term changes in exhaled breath measurements and respiratory symptoms in people who either quit smoking tobacco cigarettes or reduced consumption by switching to vaping.
The findings showed that people who ceased smoking completely and used e-cigarettes instead, steadily improved both facets. Their fractional exhaled nitric oxide and exhaled carbon monoxide (eCO) began to return to normal levels, which indicates that quitting tobacco cigarettes reverses the damage caused to the lungs as a result of smoking.
Restoration of the normal lung function is extremely important to the process of fighting off respiratory pathogens such as the flu virus and the much more deadly coronavirus. This explains why people who don’t smoke tobacco cigarettes and make the transition to e-cigarettes have a lower risk of respiratory infections and other illnesses such as lung cancer.
What This Means In The Midst Of the Coronavirus Pandemic
The studies above highlight the importance of smoking cessation amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many COVID-19 cases feature pneumonia, which causes inflammation in the lungs. This means that people with underlying lung conditions (which can be created or escalated by smoking) have a greater risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Affects the Lungs In Severe Cases
In the worst cases, COVID-19 can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) – a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. The link between ARDS and COVID-19 was made by Chinese researchers who examined fatal cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
Over 93% of patients who died at the time of the analysis had developed ARDS. This indicates that ARDS is highly likely to contribute significantly to the death of patients.
ARDS damages the walls of air sacs (alveolus) in the lungs, which support the transfer of oxygen into red blood cells. In healthy lungs, the alveolus deliver oxygen via small blood vessels known as capillaries, which in turn send oxygen to red blood cells.
When someone gets the coronavirus, the walls and lining cells of the alveolus and capillaries are destroyed. This creates debris that lines the wall of the alveolus and causes the capillaries to leak, thus thickening the wall.
The wall thickening hinders oxygen transfer, making it difficult to breathe. This is the reason why shortness of breath has been widely documented as one of the main indicators of the oncoming severe illnesses that have ultimately led to more fatalities.
Post COVID-19 Effects On Lungs
Hong Kong doctors who’ve observed patients that were discharged after being infected with COVID-19 found that their normal lung function had dropped by 20 – 30%. This means that regular activities such as walking quickly could result in shortness of breath.
To date, pulmonary fibrosis is yet to be determined. This results in lung tissue hardening so that the lungs cannot function correctly.
However, doctors do confirm that discharged patients can carry out cardiovascular exercise to gradually improve the lung function back to normal again.
Why Is Improved Lung Function Important?
The amount of damage traditional smoking causes the lungs means that smokers are less able to defend against respiratory illnesses.
The coronavirus shouldn’t be dismissed as just a normal flu or cold. Deadly conditions such as ARDS are particularly concerning. This means making the transition from smoking to vaping is all the more worthwhile.
With COVID-19 estimated to be 10 times stronger than seasonal flu, which already leads to 646,000 deaths annually, making the decision to use e-cigarettes instead of smoking can be the difference between life and death in some instances.
Vaping Vs Smoking
People who don’t vape or smoke at all are undoubtedly in a much better position in terms of lung health than people who do. But when it comes down to a choice between smoking or vaping, the research findings suggest that the lung function of a vaper is much better equipped to fight respiratory illnesses compared with a smoker.
Vaping rather than smoking reduces pulmonary inflammation, begins to clear up airways, and enables the lungs to start healing themselves after the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
With the current state of coronavirus affairs, anything that an individual can do to improve their own lung function could be vitally important to their recovery from the COVID-19 virus.