From the Journals

Quitting tobacco can improve lung health in COPD


Reducing exposure to tobacco smoke may reduce the burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and public health measures are needed, according to a new Tobacco Knowledge Summary from the World Health Organization.

“Smoking is a major risk factor for COPD and leads to airway inflammation and remodeling associated with lung destruction,” and contributes to approximately 70% of COPD cases worldwide, according to the statement.

Types of tobacco exposure include not only traditional smoked tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes, kreteks, and bidis), but also smokeless tobacco, heated tobacco products, and electronic nicotine delivery systems; the addition of chemicals and flavors can increase the appeal of tobacco products and promote addiction, the authors wrote. Hookahs and water pipes “are at least as detrimental to lung health as smoking cigarettes and should not be considered as a safe alternative,” they added.

The risk of COPD extends to new e-cigarette products, the authors noted. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that current users of e-cigarettes had a 75% increased risk of developing COPD compared with individuals who have never used e-cigarettes.

Individuals with COPD also face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and smokers with COPD who quit not only improve their COPD but also reduce their risk of developing these conditions, the authors said.

Mechanism of action explored

The authors noted how tobacco smoking may cause COPD when inhaled particles are deposited through the airway.

Growing evidence suggests that extracellular vesicles may play a role in the development of lung disorders such as COPD, and cigarette smoke can have an impact through this channel. A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine offered evidence of a potential link between exposure to cigarette smoke and the generation of a unique extracellular vesicle population that could promote the development of lung damage. In the study, Matthew C. Madison, MD, of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and colleagues examined activity in extracellular vesicles from the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of smoke-exposed mice and human smokers who were otherwise healthy.

The researchers found that airway extracellular vesicles in mice or humans exposed to cigarette smoke had the ability to cause rapid lung damage when transferred into naive recipient mice. The results provide a new model that can inform preclinical COPD research, they wrote.

Public health action needed

“In recognition of COPD and Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the impact of various forms of tobacco use on COPD,” Dharani K. Narendra, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, said in an interview.

“This article focuses on the different types of tobacco exposure, the health care burden associated with COPD, and the risk of developing lung cancer. It also addresses the high-risk groups, especially youth, underscoring the importance of public education and the implementation of restrictions on tobacco use to combat these growing concerns,” she said.

“Education, awareness, and targeted interventions are essential for smoking cessation and COPD management,” said Dr. Narendra. “These elements are key to informing the public about smoking risks, encouraging behavioral change, and ultimately reducing the incidence of smoking-related diseases,” she emphasized.

The WHO statement called for population-level interventions including brief advice to tobacco users, toll-free quit lines, pharmacological interventions, use of messaging and chatbots to provide quit support, and the WHO quit tobacco mobile app.

“It is imperative that all tobacco users, particularly those living in low- to middle-income countries, have access to comprehensive cessation support aligned with WHO recommendations,” the authors wrote.

Finally, the authors emphasized the need to protect children and teens from the dangers of tobacco use through product regulation and to expose the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics.

“The article offers a comprehensive look at different types of tobacco exposure and their contribution to the development of COPD,” Dr. Narendra told this news organization. “Notably, it presents groundbreaking evidence of a strong association between the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products to development of COPD; additionally, it provides valuable guidance on smoking cessation resources for physicians to help patients quit smoking,” she said.

Looking ahead, more research is needed on “developing and sustaining state-specific or population-specific interventions for effective smoking cessation programs, and reducing the burden of COPD,” Dr. Narendra said.

The study by Madison and colleagues was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of General Medical Science, the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Research Development Program, and the Veterans Affairs Merit grant.

Additional financial support came from Imperial College London, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship, and Rosetrees Trust/The Stoneygate Trust.

Dr. Narendra had no financial conflicts to disclose but serves as a member of the editorial board of CHEST Physician.

Next Article: