Pilot Project: Alexander Sokolovsky, PhD

Dr. Alexander Sokolovsky

Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences-Brown University

Research Profile

Complimentary Electronic Cigarettes for Harm Reduction among Adult Smokers with Asthma

Smoking is the main cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the US. Smoking impacts respiratory illness, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and asthma. Smoking is the dominant cause of COPD, representing 6% of annual US deaths. Asthma, defined by recurring, treatable airway obstruction, affects 5-10% of the US population and increases the risk for developing COPD. Research on respiratory benefits of reduced smoking are predominantly limited to “healthy” smokers rather than those with asthma. Also, the benefits of reduced smoking for adults with persistent early-onset (SEOA) versus late-onset asthma (SLOA) are unknown, despite the latter group’s heightened sensitivity to smoke. This Research Project will use a between-subjects (N=80) randomized, controlled design to investigate the influence of complimentary electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) provision on cigarette use, cigarette dependence, pulmonary function, clinical indicators, and substitution of cigarettes for ENDS. Participants will be adults with persistent asthma symptoms who are regular cigarette smokers who do not regularly use ENDS. The study will recruit non-treatment seeking participants through advertisements and targeted recruitment at immunology clinic partners. Participants meeting eligibility criteria will be assessed at baseline and then randomized to one of two study conditions: a complimentary ENDS condition or assessment-only control. Participants will return for 12 weekly visits to complete follow-up assessments; participants in the experimental condition will be provided with e-liquid cartridges for study-provided ENDS devices at all visits. Tobacco use and lung function will be assessed weekly, with biological samples, dependence, self-efficacy for cessation, and mood assessed at weeks 6 and 12. Complimentary ENDS provision will end 12 weeks after enrollment. Participants will return for follow-up assessment 18 weeks after enrollment. We hypothesize that participants who receive complimentary ENDS will smoke fewer cigarettes per day, demonstrate reduced cigarette dependence, and exhibit better asthma control and lung functioning relative to the assessment-only group, with SLOA showing greater improvements in pulmonary functioning than SEOA. The research team and mentors have the expertise with biobehavioral tobacco-related research to enable the successful completion of this project. The project aligns with the COBRE CADRE goal of identifying the mechanisms linking substance use to adverse health outcomes and chronic disease. Findings will advance our understanding of the relationship between smoking and respiratory functioning in adults with asthma and inform the use of ENDS for harm reduction in these populations.

Research Team
Jennifer Tidey, Brown University- Mentor 
Elizabeth McQuaid, Brown University- Mentor 
Eric Gartman, Brown University- Consultant