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Study finds e-cigarette use linked to cough reflex sensitivity

( Glenview, Ill. (August 20, 2015)--The popularity of electronic cigarettes has steadily increased worldwide, but little is known about their effects on health. New research suggests that the single use of an electronic cigarette approximating the nicotine exposure of one tobacco cigarette reduces the sensitivity of the cough reflex.

The study tested 30 adult lifetime nonsmokers with no history of asthma or respiratory diseases and used cough tests to determine how e-cigarettes affect the cough reflex. Capsaicin, the pungent extract of red peppers, was used to induce a safe cough in the subjects and establish their baseline cough reflex sensitivity prior to use of electronic cigarette. Each subject then inhaled 30 puffs of an electronic cigarette, which contains nicotine in a vehicle of distilled water. Fifteen minutes after the e-cigarette "vaping" session, subjects were tested again using the capsaicin cough challenge and then tested again after 24 hours. Based on a comparison of results, a significant decrease in cough reflex sensitivity was shown within the subjects as compared with their baseline levels.

The authors found that nicotine is probably responsible for the effect on the cough reflex. Prior research shows that nicotine also promotes cough immediately after ingestion, suggesting that nicotine has a dual action: an immediate stimulation of the cough reflex and a delayed inhibition.


The entire study, CHEST EFFECT OF ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE USE ON COUGH REFLEX SENSITIVITY, can be viewed in the Online First section of CHEST.


American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), publisher of the journal CHEST, is the global leader in advancing best patient outcomes through innovative chest medicine education, clinical research, and team-based care. Its mission is to champion the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chest diseases through education, communication, and research. It serves as an essential connection to clinical knowledge and resources for its 18,700 members from around the world who provide patient care in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. For more information about CHEST, visit


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