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E-Cigarettes with Nicotine Endangers Heart Health

Smoking e-cigarettes with nicotine found to increase blood pressure, heart rate, and arterial stiffness.
Published Online: Sep 22,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
The results of a study for the first time indicate that e-cigarettes with nicotine may result in arterial stiffness, according to a presentation at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.

As the use of e-cigarettes increases—especially among children and adolescents—these findings provide important insight since arterial stiffness may lead to heart attack and strokes.

"The number of e-cigarette users has increased dramatically in the last few years. E-cigarettes are regarded by the general public as almost harmless. The e-cigarette industry markets their product as a way to reduce harm and to help people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes,” said lead researcher Magnus Lundbäck, MD, PhD. “However, the safety of e-cigarettes is debated, and a growing body of evidence is suggesting several adverse health effects.”

In the study, the authors explored the effects of e-cigarettes that contained nicotine and those that did not among 15 healthy patients who were not smokers and had not previously used e-cigarettes.

Patients were randomized to use e-cigarettes with nicotine for 30 minutes on 1 day and a nicotine-free e-cigarette another day. The authors measured blood pressure, heart rate, and arterial stiffness right after smoking and after 2 and 4 hours.

"The results are preliminary, but in this study we found there was a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure in the volunteers who were exposed to e-cigarettes containing nicotine,” Dr Lundbäck said. “Arterial stiffness increased around three-fold in those who were exposed to nicotine containing e-cigarettes compared to the nicotine-free group."

Within the first 30 minutes of smoking the e-cigarette with nicotine, the authors noted an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and arterial stiffness, according to the study. The authors found that there was less of an effect on heart rate and arterial stiffness among patients who had smoked nicotine-free e-cigarettes.

"The immediate increase in arterial stiffness that we saw is most likely attributed to nicotine," Dr Lundbäck said. "The increase was temporary. However, the same temporary effects on arterial stiffness have also been demonstrated following use of conventional cigarettes. Chronic exposure to both active and passive cigarette smoking causes a permanent increase in arterial stiffness.”

The authors report that chronic use of e-cigarettes with nicotine may result in permanent arterial stiffness; however, there have not been any studies exploring the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have been perceived as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, despite the lack of research. The authors urge individuals to be cautious about the health effects of e-cigarettes.

"It is very important that the results of this and other studies reach the general public and the healthcare professionals working in preventive healthcare, for example in smoking cessation,” Dr Lundbäck said. “Our results underline the necessity of maintaining a critical and cautious attitude towards e-cigarettes, especially for health care professionals. E-cigarette users should be aware of the potential dangers of this product, so that they can decide whether to continue or quit based on scientific facts."

The authors plan to conduct future studies about how e-cigarettes may affect blood vessels and lung function, in addition to cell studies of e-cigarette vapor and liquid, according to the study.

"Therefore, our research concerns a very large population and our results may prevent future health problems for a huge number of people,” Dr Lundbäck concluded. “It is of the utmost importance to investigate further the possible long-term effects of daily e-cigarette use through studies that are funded independently of the e-cigarette industry."