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No Better Time Than Now to Quit Smoking

It’s never not a good time to quit smoking. But considering smokers are among those at a greater risk of contracting a severe illness from a COVID-19 infection, there may be no better time than now to kick the dangerous habit.

According to a research letter published in the European Respiratory Journal, the risk for COVID-19 turning into pneumonia in smokers and those suffering from COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – can be partly explained by increased levels of an enzyme that allows the virus to infect their lungs.

A study conducted by Canadian researchers determined that smokers had higher levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their lower respiratory tract than those who had quit smoking or had never smoked.

"This may in part explain the increased risk of viral respiratory tract infection in active smokers and virus-related exacerbations in those with COPD," the study read

The researchers recommend increased coronavirus vigilance in smokers and those with COPD to prevent or rapidly diagnose the infection.

“This suggests that there has never been a better time to quit smoking to protect yourself from COVID-19," said Dr. Janice Leung, who led the research at the University of British Columbia and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Click here for more on the story and here to read the research letter.

Stopping Smoking Allows Healthy Lung Cells to Proliferate

Mar2020image008New research is adding to the strong suggestion that the benefits of quitting smoking are overwhelmingly positive, including preventing further damage to the lungs—increasing the proportion of healthy cells to damaged cells that could reduce the risk of lung cancer.

In a study published online January 29 in Nature, researchers conducted whole-genome sequencing on healthy airway cells collected from current smokers and ex-smokers, as well as from adult never-smokers and children. They found that the cells from current and ex-smokers had a far higher mutational burden than those of never-smokers and children, including an increased number of mutations that increase the potential of cells to become cancerous. They also found that in ex-smokers, as many as 40% of the cells were near normal, with less genetic damage and a low risk of developing cancer.

“What is so exciting about our study is that it shows that it's never too late to quit. Some of the people in our study had smoked more than 15,000 packs of cigarettes over their life, but within a few years of quitting, many of the cells lining their airways showed no evidence of damage from tobacco,” said Senior author Peter J. Campbell, Ph.D., Cancer Genome Project, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, United Kingdom.

The study also sheds some light on how the protective effect of smoking cessation. Research says that stopping smoking at any age does not only slows the accumulation of further damage but could reawaken cells unharmed by past lifestyle choices.

For more information, visit Medscape.

E-cigs can Trigger the Same Lung Changes Seen in Smokers, Emphysema

Feb2020image004Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine say they have found that the lungs of vapers – individuals who use vaping devices – show higher levels of protease enzymes, a condition known to cause emphysema in smokers. These same signs were found in the lungs of smokers.

Researchers said they found that the nicotine in vaping liquids is responsible for the increase in protease enzymes, leading them to conclude that those who vape may suffer from some of the same adverse health effects as cigarettes. Specifically, evidence suggests that vaping can increase the same cellular responses found in smokers who suffer from emphysema.

“This study indicates that vaping may not be safer than cigarette smoking,” said senior study author Robert Tarran, Ph.D., a member of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine.

Researchers measured levels of three protease enzymes in lung fluid sampled from 41 people – non-smokers, smokers, and vapers. Cigarette smoke causes immune cells in the lungs to secrete these enzymes at higher levels. Chronic overactivity of these protein-chewing enzymes damages the tiny sensitive air sac structures in the lungs that allow people to breathe. In smokers, this damage can cause emphysema.

Scientists found the levels of these enzymes were much higher in smokers and vapers, but not in non-smokers, suggesting that vaping may promote emphysema.

The scientists said evidence indicates that nicotine in vaping liquids is the cause of the elevated-protease reaction. Because of this, vaping risks may be underestimated, especially regarding emphysema and COPD.

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. To review additional study information or more about the report, visit Science Daily.

Vaping Increases the Risk of Lung Disease By a Third: U.S. study

jan2020image002Using e-cigarettes significantly increases the risk of developing chronic lung conditions such as asthma or emphysema, according to U.S. researchers. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows the potential long-term harms of using e-cigarettes, which are sometimes used to promote safe tobacco alternatives and even to help some quit smoking.

Inversely, the study found that e-cigarettes can increase the risk of lung disease by a third compared with those who never smoked or vaped. And the risk is higher for adults who used e-cigarettes and smoked tobacco.

“E-cigarettes are promoted as harmless and they’re not,” Stanton Glantz, director of the University of California San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, told Reuters.  

For the survey, researchers used data from 32,000 adults surveyed in the CDC’s Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH). It tracked e-cigarette and tobacco habits, as well as new lung disease diagnoses, from 2013 to 2016.

No participants had lung disease at the start of the study. Three year later, researchers found that people who used e-cigarettes had about a 30% increased risk of developing lung diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), compared to those who never smoked or vaped. Those who smoked cigarettes had about twice the risk of chronic lung disease compared to those who never smoked. For those who smoked traditional and e-cigarettes, the risk more than tripled, the study found.

“Everybody, including me, used to think e-cigarettes are like cigarettes but not as bad. If you substitute a few e-cigarettes for cigarettes, you’re probably better off,” Glantz said. “It turns out you’re worse off. E-cigarettes pose unique risks in terms of lung disease.”

For more information about the report, visit Reuters.

Study focuses on smoking cessation treatment for adolescents

Credit: Ethan Parsa, Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/users/sarahjohnson1-9536297/ Deaths related to tobacco use are at the top the worldwide list of preventable deaths. Unfortunately, while rates of adolescent smoking have declined over the years, 4.9 million middle and high school students still reported using tobacco in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A new study in JAMA Pediatrics focused on factors driving adolescent smoking. According to study author Kevin Gray, M.D., a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor and physician at the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the critical differences in treating adolescents is the pressure surrounding their smoking habit.

Adolescents are more likely than adults to start using addictive substances, and they are more likely to do something risky without considering the long-term consequences. Gray points to peer influence as a primary culprit, as adolescents are more likely to be influenced and pressured by their peers, and they're more likely to try new things.

Chantix, a popular pharmacotherapy for smokers looking to quit, is effective in adults but has not been examined as a smoking cessation tool for adolescents. In Grey’s study, participants were treated with Chantix in conjunction with therapy over 12 weeks to determine the drug's efficacy. At the end of 12 weeks, there was no significant difference between the placebo group and the treatment group in terms of end-of-treatment smoking abstinence. However, upon follow-up, those in the Chantix group were less likely to have relapsed.

This study showed that the drug affects smoking cessation in adolescents differently than in adults and may not be an effective treatment on its own. Overall rates of quitting were lower in these trials than in previous adult trials.

Participant motivation may play a role. The desire to quit changes over time, especially in adolescence, but medication alone likely won't work as well for adolescents as pairing medication with therapy and behavioral treatments.

"We want to match our treatments to the needs of adolescents," said Gray. "And part of that is truly understanding where adolescents are with smoking and designing treatments around that."

For more detail about the study, visit News Medical.

Smokers may be at higher risk of depression and schizophrenia, study finds

https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-sad-depression-headache-2609115/ Credit: StockSnapSmokers may be at a higher risk of developing depression and schizophrenia, suggesting that smoking can have a greater negative impact on mental health than previously thought. That’s according to research led by scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK.

Rather than merely looking at whether the smokers had a genetic predisposition to mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia, researchers used genetic data to examine cause-and-effect relationships with smoking.

"Individuals with mental illness are often overlooked in our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence, leading to health inequalities," the study's lead author, Robyn Wootton, said in a statement.

Scientists studied data from 462,690 individuals of European ancestry. They used an approach called Mendelian randomization to identify genetic variations associated with a trait, such as depression or schizophrenia, then test for changes against an exposure (e.g. smoking) to determine if the relationship is causal.

Researchers found that smoking increased the risk of depression and schizophrenia, and that people with depression and schizophrenia are more likely to smoke. Smoking was also found to increase the risk of bipolar disorder. Because of this, researchers recommended that psychiatric hospitals be smoke-free to avoid detrimental effects on mental health.

The journal Psychological Medicine published the full study.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

It May Be Tougher for Women to Quit Smoking

https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-smoking-cigarette-tobacco-918616/  Credit: Free-PhotosSmoking is a severe addiction to beat, and a new study suggests that women may have a more difficult time doing so than men. The primary reason? Women generally have a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression – factors that may make it more difficult to move on from the addiction. Researchers also point out that women’s brains may react differently to nicotine, which can add to the difficulties they have with quitting.

In this study, the average age of participants was 56 and nearly one-third were women. Patients in the group said they smoked an average of 18 cigarettes daily for 37 years. After six months, 58 (25%) study participants reportedly stopped smoking and 68 (29%) cut back on the number of cigarettes smoked by more than half. Women were about 50% less likely to quit smoking than men.

The total number of clinic visits, adding prescription medications like Chantix to treat smoking addiction, the individuals in the study, and patient’s ability to afford treatment all factored into the chance of success in quitting smoking. Chantix, a prescription drug that helps individuals wean themselves from cigarettes, doubled the odds of success, according to the study’s senior author, Dr. Beth Abramson, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Quitting smoking is the most significant modifiable factor to prevent heart disease in women, Abramson said, as well is the leading preventable cause of COPD.

Smoking is the primary cause of preventable death worldwide, accounting for 480,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. About 12% of American women aged 18 and older smoke tobacco, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women also are more likely to use cigarettes to deal with stress in their lives, Abramson said, who noted that women smoke and stop smoking for different reasons than men.

The study's findings were presented recently at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal.

Click here to read the full article on WebMD.

These Are the Grossest Side Effects of Vaping

Ethan Parsa, Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/users/sarahjohnson1-9536297/Vaping causes a number of problems that are often undiscussed but that are nonetheless real. Health problems are one thing, but there are many other undesirable outcomes of the addiction.

“Not only does vaping pose serious health issues, such as damage to your heart and lungs, it can cause other physical changes that are very undesirable,” said Ali S. Raja, M.D., executive vice chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.

The following are some of the most prevalent results of long-term, sustained vaping.

A Hacking Cough

Vaping will irritate your lungs, causing inflammation because the vaping liquids coats them, which makes your lungs’ job a lot harder as they attempt to function. This makes it harder to breathe and can cause a hacking cough—also knowns as a chronic smokers’ cough.


Talking too fast, the shakes, and nervousness can be caused by vaping. Inhaling vaping products can increase your heart rate, which can lead to stress and jitteriness.

Premature wrinkles

“The nicotine in vaping liquids dehydrates your skin,” Dr. Raja said. “So, you can get premature wrinkles and very dry skin. In addition to skin aging, too, vaping can also delay wound healing. Nicotine use also is linked to chronic skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, and skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, as well as oral cancer.”

Yellow Teeth

Your teeth will turn yellow because of the bacteria from vaping liquids. It will get worse the more you vape.

No Teeth

Vaping-caused inflammation can affect your gums to such a serious extent that your teeth can fall out.

You Smell Bad

Vaping, like cigarettes, can make you smell, which is not pleasant for anyone.

Want to know more? Click here for the full article in Parade.

E-cigarettes and Vaping Just As Bad On Lung Health As Cigarettes

Photo credit: Itay Kabalo, UnsplashResearchers from the University of North Carolina Health Care have discovered that emphysema is just as likely in e-cigarette smokers as it is in traditional cigarette smokers. The takeaway is that vaping appears to be just as harmful as cigarettes.

“Our findings in this study indicate that vaping may not be safer than cigarette smoking,” said researcher Robert Tarran, PhD. 

The researchers sampled lung fluid for three different protease enzymes that came from cigarette smokers, e-cigarette smokers, and non-smokers. Previous studies have shown that smokers have higher levels of these enzymes, which can lead to emphysema. Researchers wanted to gauge the levels in the three different groups to see how e-cigarettes are affecting consumers’ lung function. 

All of the participants were tested for their levels of the three different enzymes. Non-smokers were found to have normal levels of these enzymes, and were not at an increased risk of emphysema. Not so much for traditional smokers and e-cigarette smokers. 

E-cigarette and cigarette smoke affected the lungs in much the same way, meaning emphysema may be just as likely for either form of inhalant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced its plan to further investigate claims that e-cigarettes have a direct link to lung disease.

Click here to read the full report on Consumer Reports.

Women Smoked Less Than Men but Were More Severely Affected by COPD

june2019image003While women reported smoking less than men, they were found to be more severely affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Women with COPD reported smoking fewer cigarettes than men but experienced worse symptoms, reported lower quality of life, and suffered more frequent and severe acute exacerbations because of progressive lung disorder, according to an abstract presented at the 2019 American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference.

“Women comprise 50 percent of the U.S. COPD population and represent a growing proportion of incident cases,” researchers said. “Risk factors for incident COPD, clinical phenotype and prognosis differ by sex.”

Researchers analyzed data from the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD study (SPIROMICS) to examine how COPD outcomes differed by gender. Per the report, SPIROMICS was a prospective cohort study designed to identify COPD subgroups and intermediate markers of disease progression. Considering nearly half of its participants were women, and it had collected data on COPD morbidity measures and hormonal exposure history, researchers determined it was distinctively poised for their analysis.

Study investigators examined baseline data from 1,832 SPIROMICS participants with more than 20 pack years of smoking history and COPD. Markers of COPD morbidity included respiratory-specific quality of life measures (QoL) from scores from the Saint George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), general QoL measures from scores from the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey version two, recorded distance on a six-minute walk test, symptom scores from the modified Medical Research Council questionnaire (mMRC) and COPD Assessment Test (CAT), and both the frequency and severity of acute exacerbations.

Frequent acute exacerbations were defined as two or more suffered per year. Researchers considered an exacerbation to be severe if it resulted in hospitalization or an emergency room visit.

Approximately 42 percent (781) of individuals included in the analysis were women. Age, race, smoking status and predicted forced expiratory volume were similar between women and men. The mean number of reported smoking pack-years was 48 for females and 56 for males.

Researchers found that females were independently associated with:

  • Greater respiratory impairment
  • greater general impairment, and
  • shorter distances walked.

Researchers also found that women had higher chances of hypoxemia and were more likely to be symptomatic. They also experienced a greater frequency of acute exacerbations and more severe acute exacerbations than men.

Click here to read the full article in AJMC.

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