Being diagnosed with asthma or COPD after a life of smoking can be extremely difficult; an old habit that you may have once associated with relaxation could now lead to a serious life-threatening exacerbation or asthma attack. This means quitting smoking post-diagnosis is absolutely essential to your wellbeing.
However, this is easier said than done and many sufferers struggle to make this daunting lifestyle change. There is plenty of support out there for smokers trying to quit – such as nicotine replacement therapy, support groups and medication – but often temptation and falling back in old habits leads to people picking up a cigarette again regardless of the risk to their health.
This failure to quit often leads people to claim that nicotine replacement therapy and other methods don’t work, despite scientific and medical evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, some sufferers will often try to struggle by on their own rather than relying on techniques they have no faith in, and will often fail too.
What are E-Cigarettes?
Over the past few years, a new alternative to smoking has emerged – e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that are designed to look and function in the same manner as a normal cigarette; the appearance is often the same and you ‘smoke’ an e-cigarette in the same way you would a normal cigarette. The device even emits vapours and is legal to use anywhere.
Rather than burning tobacco though, an e-cigarette makes use of a liquid nicotine cartridge. This liquid nicotine is heated up when the user inhales, creating a water vapour that is then inhaled and thus gives the user their ‘nicotine fix’. The devices are variously marketed as a way to smoke in a public place, a safe alternative to smoking and a way to quit smoking altogether – it’s the latter that appeals to COPD sufferers the most.
Are E-Cigarettes an Effective Way To Quit Smoking?
In theory, e-cigarettes would appear to be the perfect way to give up smoking altogether for COPD sufferers. After all, they recreate the experience of smoking, physically and mentally, but without the harmful lung-damaging smoke that causes exacerbations and asthma attacks.
To date, however, there has been no solid medical evidence to suggest that switching to e-cigarettes is an effective way of giving up smoking forever. In contrast, the benefits of a well-planned out nicotine replacement therapy scheme are well verified in the medical community.
Part of the issue with e-cigarettes as a form of cessation is that the devices act as a replacement rather than a solution. Essentially, you are replacing cigarettes with a slightly healthier alternative – this has obvious benefits for your health, but doesn’t deal with the psychological addiction that so many smokers suffer from.
Not dealing with this addiction can lead to relapses in the future, as well as becoming dependent on e-cigarettes and going through the same cycle as you would if you were smoking normal cigarettes.
The regulation of e-cigarettes, and the chemicals used in them, has also come into question, not least from the FDA in the US. Some e-cigarettes come without proper instructions on safe usage and without health warnings. There have also been suggestions that the devices may contain harmful chemicals.
Additionally, it has been suggested that the use of e-cigarettes can cause lung damage, although it’s important to note that these findings are based on the early stages of research by the University of Athens in Greece and do not definitively prove that e-cigarettes are bad for your lungs. Far more research is required before any definitive claims regarding the effects of e-cigarettes on the lungs can be drawn.
So are e-cigarettes a safe alternative for COPD and asthma sufferers? In short, we don’t yet have enough evidence to say for sure. While they are undoubtedly safer to smoke if you use a portable oxygen concentrator, the effects of their long term use haven’t been studied well enough to say for sure. As a way of quitting smoking, there are certainly some benefits, but nicotine replacement therapy with the supervision of a medical professional is a more effective and proven route to take.