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Vaping may damage heart health just like cigarettes

The study included 106 young adults aged 18–45 years.

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Vaping man holding a mod. A cloud of vapor. Black background. Vaping an electronic cigarette with a lot of smoke. Vape concept
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By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Vaping may damage heart health in a similar way to traditional cigarettes, warns new research from Boston.

Scientists found that vapers could be exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - a broad group of gases found in cleaning products, paint, cigarettes, vehicle exhaust, pesticides and other substances.

They said that VOCs can have a variety of effects from being highly toxic to having no known health effects.

Study lead author Dr. Sana Majid, of Boston University in the US, said: “Pod-based electronic cigarettes are commonly marketed to youth and young adults, as well as people attempting to quit or reduce smoking regular cigarettes.

“However, the long-term health effects of using these novel tobacco products are currently unknown, which is why we conducted this study.”

Dr. Majid and colleagues wanted to evaluate the effects of vaping on heart health so they compared the vascular effects related to VOC exposure among vapers, traditional cigarette smokers and non-smokers.

The study included 106 young adults aged 18–45 years without cardiovascular disease or other risk factors such as increased risk of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

Local residents, staff members and students were recruited between 2019 and 2021 at Boston University and at the University of Louisville Kentucky, with 49 percent male and 51 percent female.

Among vapers, 35 percent were female, traditional cigarettes 33 percent and non-smokers 81 percent.

two disposable e-cigarettes on a yellow background. The concept of modern smoking, vaping and nicotine. Top view
(Pedal to the Stock via Shutterstock)

Approximately 45 percent of participants used e-cigarettes, 20 percent smoked traditional cigarettes and 35 percent did not smoke.

At the time of the study, 37 percent of the e-cigarette users reported they had never smoked traditional cigarettes, 64 percent exclusively used e-cigarettes and 36 percent used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes.

Participants’ vascular function (functioning of the arteries and veins that circulate blood throughout the body) and blood pressure were measured before and after they used their preferred tobacco product for 10 minutes.

Measurements were taken in one day during one clinic visit for each participant.

Vascular function was measured by looking at the widening of the artery in the arm in response to increased blood flow both before and 30 minutes after participants used their preferred tobacco product, with a single measurement taken at both points in time.

Blood pressure and heart rate were measured 10 minutes after participants used their preferred tobacco product, with researchers recording the average of three readings before and after product use.

VOC levels in the urine were measured before and one hour after the use of either e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes.

The results, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, showed young adults who vaped had changes in blood vessel health similar to traditional cigarette smokers.

Both vapers and smokers had eight percent higher blood pressure compared to non-smokers and had increased heart rates.

Elevated levels of VOCs in e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes decreased artery dilation, which is important for circulation and vascular health.

Dr. Majid said: “Our findings demonstrate that pod-based e-cigarette use had long- and short-term effects on the vascular system in healthy young adults, including in those who have only smoked e-cigarettes and have never smoked combustible cigarettes.

Skeleton vaping clouds of vapor with an ecigarette
(Toasted Pictures via Shutterstock)

"These results indicate that e-cigarettes release chemicals that are toxic to blood vessels, and the use of pod-based e-cigarettes may be associated with harm.”

There has been a continued drop in the percentage of Americans who report smoking cigarettes (11%), but nearly as many U.S. adults now use e-cigarettes as tobacco cigarettes, according to Gallup.

Dr. Majid added: “Youth and young adults should avoid using any tobacco products including pod-based e-cigarettes because they may adversely affect blood vessel health.

“Setting regulations that make it more difficult for youth to start using e-cigarettes is an important part of achieving a tobacco-free future.

“We also need better approaches to help people to stop using all tobacco products and expand support and access to cessation programs and medications.”

The study limitations include the participants using their own tobacco product, making it difficult to isolate the effects of each of the individual components of the products such as nicotine levels or flavors, as well as differences in vascular function within each participant that may be associated with using specific types or brands of tobacco products.

Additionally, most participants used mint-flavored pods, and larger studies may be needed to capture differences associated with different flavor types.

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