Anyone who has ever undergone a scheduled surgery is no doubt familiar with the strong invective against smoking tobacco products in the weeks leading up to surgery. Failing to abstain from smoking before undergoing invasive medical treatment can lead to numerous complications, ranging from slowed healing and a heightened risk of post-surgical complications to a heightened risk of strokes and other permanently debilitating conditions.
While nicotine is mostly eliminated from the body after around two days of complete abstinence, the reason doctors advise patients to abstain from smoking for as long as eight weeks prior to undergoing surgery is that other risk factors related to smoking can linger for far longer. Lung tissue takes weeks to recover following regular smoking, and most of the damage related to heightened risk of complications is attributable not to nicotine or even to the carbon monoxide exposure caused by smoking, but rather to other harmful chemicals produced in the combustion of tobacco leaves, especially in their commercial formulation. Since these same compounds can also affect healing rates, doctors also advise that smokers abstain from smoking for a while following surgery in order to ensure speedy recovery.
The problem with all this, however, is that if most smokers were somehow able to simply stop smoking for two months at a time on demand, there would likely not be very many smokers at all. It is thus common that patients continue smoking for most or all of the time period where they are supposed to be abstaining, and this often leads to dire consequences.
In order to curb the prevalence of these consequences, doctors at the Mayo Clinic are now looking into a new potential use for vaping: helping smokers avoid smoking for as long as possible before and after undergoing surgery. Multiple studies have shown that replacing smoking with nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches is helpful in reducing smoking-related complications for frequent smokers, indicating that nicotine intake alone poses far lower risks for complications than actually smoking. The thought behind this latest initiative, then, is that, since vaping devices do not appear to expose smokers to harmful compounds other than nicotine, the same philosophy could be applied here. Since, as has been shown in much of the literature surrounding this subject, vaping is much more effective than other NRTs in actually helping smokers abstain, encouraging patients to switch to vaping instead of smoking would likely lead to a heavy reduction in the number of smokers who continue smoking surrounding their surgery despite their doctor’s strong advisement against it.
After conducting a study to ascertain whether smokers would even be willing to consider vaping as an alternative to smoking leading up to their surgeries (the findings say that a large majority would), the Mayo Clinic is now set to start an expansive trial to test their hypothesis. Based on the preliminary study, it appears that e-cigarettes would be provided to smokers free of charge at pre-operative consultations. Among all the news of ignorant lawmakers spouting off baseless nonsense, this initiative really is a breath of fresh air. You should probably still stop vaping for two days leading up to your surgery, though.