Not so safe: Vaping also causing heart attacks and stroke
About the author:
E-cigarettes, or vaping, are not such a safe option. They also can cause a heart attack, coronary artery disease or depression, researchers say.
Users run a ‘significant risk’ of developing one of these conditions compared to non-smokers; e-cigarette smokers are 56 per cent more likely to have a heart attack and have a 30 per cent greater chance of suffering a stroke.
They are also 44 per cent more likely to suffer circulatory problems, including blood clots, and the chances of depression, anxiety and other emotional problems double, say researchers at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
The rates are lower than seen among tobacco users—who run a 165 per cent risk of a heart attack and a 94 per cent chance of developing heart disease—but they are still more significant than many had believed.
The researchers looked at reports of more than 96,000 people, some of whom used e-cigarettes, and compared their health against tobacco smokers. “Cigarette smoking carries a much higher probability of heart attack and stroke than e-cigarettes but that doesn’t mean vaping is safe,” said researcher Mohinder Vindhyal.
All e-cigarette smokers ran some risk of developing one of the health problems, whether they used the devices every day or just occasionally, although the risk increased with the frequency of use.
E-cigarettes were launched in 2007, and sales have increased 14-fold with around one in 20 Americans now using them. Since launch, 460 brands and 7,700 flavours have been developed.
E-cigarettes change blood vessels after just one use, study says
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Radiology, concluded that vaping temporarily impacts blood vessel function in healthy people. Using MRI scans, it found, for example, changes in blood flow within the femoral artery in the leg after just one use. The researchers couldn’t determine which chemical might be responsible for the changes they observed.
“After a few minutes, everything normalizes. One could say, big deal, nothing happens,” said study author Felix W. Wehrli, professor of radiologic science and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
“But if someone vapes regularly,” Wehrli continued, there’s a possibility that, over time, things might not go back to normal as readily. The changes his team measured in 31 people, who had never vaped or smoked, reflect “the same processes … known to be initiating steps in the development of cardiovascular disease,” including atherosclerosis. But that takes years to develop, he added.
The study is the most recent addition to a proliferation of research aiming to measure the impact of e-cigarettes on the heart, blood vessels, lungs and brain. But experts say the research remains in its early stages, often taking place in the lab or in animals.
A study in May, for example, found evidence that e-cigarette flavors had toxic effects — including poorer cell survival and signs of increased inflammation — on a type of cardiovascular cell in the lab.
“The use of e-cigarettes is increasing and the data demonstrating potential harm … is also growing,” doctors from the University of Massachusetts Medical School said in a commentary published alongside the May study. “In addition to harm from the nicotine, the additives are a potential source of adverse vascular health and one that is being disproportionately placed on the young.”
While experts have long suspected that vaping poses fewer health risks than smoking cigarettes, the doctors wrote that “little is known about the potential toxicology” of flavorings, particles, heavy metals and other components used in e-cigarettes.
“Nobody knows what it does to the human lung to breathe in and out aerosolized propylene glycol and glycerin over and over. It’s an experiment, frankly,” Dr. Robert Jackler, founder of Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, said at a congressional hearing last month.
“We will find out, years from now, the results,” he said.
Jackler said a number of chemicals used by the flavor industry may be safe when absorbed through the intestine, but we don’t yet know the impact they can have on the lungs over a long period of time.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that vaping is safer than conventional smoking,” Jackler said, “but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe.”