Ignoring the Science: Doctors Believe Nicotine Causes COPD

Ignoring the Science: Doctors Believe Nicotine Causes COPD

And thereby they incorrectly believe that vaping will cause COPD.

19 September 2023 | Hannah Rubery

Ignoring the Science: Doctors Believe Nicotine Causes COPD (Image)

In the realm of public health, harm reduction is a strategy that acknowledges the reality of risky behaviours and seeks to reduce their impact, when complete cessation may be too difficult for many. Nowhere is this more pertinent than in the ongoing conversation surrounding tobacco smoking, a globally recognised health hazard.

A technological breakthrough in this arena, vaping, has emerged as a potential tool for harm reduction; however, it has been met with a wave of misinformation, casting a shadow over its potential benefits. The majority of doctors, as seen in a recent study, have the impression that vaping is as harmful as smoking, an opinion shared worryingly by many in the populace. This belief, however, contradicts evidence-based science.

Almost 80% of doctors in a recent study believe nicotine causes COPD

A startling revelation in a recent study found that almost 80% of doctors believed nicotine to be a direct contributor to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This belief appears to be rooted in a significant gap in their understanding of vaping as a potential replacement for traditional smoking - and a much less harmful one at that.

In spite of the extensive body of research illustrating the reduced harm associated with vaping compared to smoking, medical professionals are hesitant to recommend it as a viable cessation tool for their patients. The crux of the issue lies in the rampant misinformation surrounding vaping, which has evidently permeated the medical community. As a result, doctors are underprepared to offer informed guidance on vaping as an alternative to smoking, which can potentially offer substantial health benefits for their patients.

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a collective term for a group of progressive lung conditions that obstruct airflow, making it difficult to breathe. Two of the most prevalent conditions are emphysema, which slowly damages the air sacs in the lungs, and chronic bronchitis, causing long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

The principal cause of COPD is prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, especially when it's combined with a genetic predisposition. However, other environmental factors, such as exposure to dust, chemicals and air pollution, can also contribute to its onset.

Why vaping is much less harmful than smoking

Vaping, a practice that involves the inhalation of vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device, is distinguishably less harmful than traditional smoking. The discrepancy in harm arises primarily from the absence of combustion in vaping.

Traditional tobacco smoking involves the burning of tobacco, leading to the production of numerous toxic and carcinogenic substances. In contrast, vaping heats the e-liquid to a much lower temperature, avoiding combustion and thereby significantly reducing the emission of harmful toxins.

Furthermore, it's important to note that nicotine, a common element in both cigarettes and most vaping products, is addictive but not directly responsible for major smoking-related diseases like COPD. Thus, vaping, while not completely risk-free, is a much safer alternative to smoking. The misinformation surrounding vaping nicotine as a significant contributor to COPD is a misconception that needs rectification.

Nicotine vs Cigarette smoke

Nicotine, the addictive substance found in both cigarettes and most e-cigarettes, while not harmless, is not the primary culprit behind smoking-related diseases such as COPD. Contrary to popular misconceptions, nicotine is mainly responsible for addiction, not tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, or heart disease. It's the myriad of toxins and carcinogens released through the combustion of tobacco in traditional cigarettes that cause the majority of these health issues.

However, that being said, nicotine can raise blood pressure and spike adrenaline and heart rate, potentially increasing the risk of a heart attack. Its addictive nature can also make quitting smoking particularly challenging, thereby prolonging exposure to harmful cigarette smoke.

How vaping has helped COPD patients

A study examining ex-smokers suffering from COPD who switched to vaping found noteworthy long-term health benefits. The COPD patients who made the shift reported a significant increase in lung function and CAT scores, a 50% reduction in flare-ups and an overall improvement in their physical abilities, demonstrating the potential of e-cigarettes as a harm-reduction tool.

This research, critical in the fight against vaping misinformation, offers compelling evidence that vaping can indeed provide a safer alternative for smokers, especially those battling COPD, further reinforcing the necessity to correct misconceptions and provide accurate information to both the public and the medical community.


In conclusion, it's clear that the prevailing narrative surrounding vaping and its associated harms is veering away from scientific truth. The misplaced fears about nicotine as a major cause of COPD, predominantly propagated by misinformation, are thwarting the potential of vaping as a harm reduction tool in the fight against tobacco smoking.

Indeed, vaping is not entirely risk-free, but several studies emphatically demonstrate that it is considerably less harmful than traditional smoking, particularly for those suffering from COPD. There is an urgent need to rectify these misconceptions to foster a more fact-based dialogue, ensuring that both smokers and healthcare professionals can make informed decisions about vaping as an alternative to smoking. After all, in the realm of public health, accurate knowledge is the best harm-reduction tool we have.