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E-cigarettes may not reduce vascular damage

The chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause serious damage to the structure and function of blood vessels and arteries. A new study published by the American Heart Association has revealed that e-cigarettes may induce the same vascular damage as traditional cigarettes. 

“Many people believe e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes. In fact, most e-cigarette users say the primary reason they use e-cigarettes is because they think e-cigarettes pose less of a health risk,” said study lead author Dr. Jessica L. Fetterman. 

“Meanwhile, the evidence from scientific studies is growing that e-cigarettes might not be the safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes when it comes to heart health. Our study adds to that evidence.”

The research was focused on over 400 individuals between the ages of 21 and 45 with no pre-existing heart disease risk factors. Among the study participants, there were 94 nonsmokers, 285 cigarette smokers, 36 e-cigarette users, and 52 smokers of both traditional and e-cigarettes.

Dual smokers and traditional cigarette smokers were mostly older than e-cigarette users, who were predominantly young white males. E-cigarette users were all former smokers of traditional cigarettes.

“We studied measures of blood vessel function in e-cigarette and dual users who had been using e-cigarettes for at least three months,” said Dr. Fetterman. 

“Most studies to-date have looked at the impact of acute use of e-cigarettes on blood vessel function measured right before and after use, whereas our study evaluated blood vessel function in chronic e-cigarette use among young, healthy adults.”

The researchers found that former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes and dual users had arteries that were just as stiff as traditional cigarette users.

“Stiffening of the arteries can cause damage to the small blood vessels, including capillaries, and puts additional stress on the heart, all of which can contribute to the development of heart disease,” said Dr. Fetterman.

The study also revealed that the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels appeared to have sustained the same amount of damage in those who smoked e-cigarettes, combustible cigarettes,  or both.

“The endothelial cells from e-cigarette users or dual users produced less of the heart-protective compound nitric oxide, compared to non-tobacco users. Their cells also produced more reactive oxygen species, which cause damage to the parts of cells such as DNA and proteins,” said Dr. Fetterman.

“Our study results suggest there is no evidence that the use of e-cigarettes reduces cardiovascular injury, dysfunction or harm associated with the use of combustible tobacco products.”

According to Dr. Fetterman, long-term studies are needed to further examine the progression of vascular damage from e-cigarettes alone.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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