Electronic or Traditional Cigarettes: Both Harm Cardiovascular Health

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    Adults, even those who are young, who regularly use electronic nicotine delivery devices (e-cigarettes) show “worrying changes” in heart and blood vessel function that are similar to those seen in traditional smokers.

    This is indicated by 3 American studies that have been released this Monday and will be presented at the scientific sessions of the American Heart Association in Chicago, from November 5th to 7th, 2022. In 2 of them, the researchers led by the University of Wisconsin, compared data from people who use electronic cigarettes; those who smoke traditional cigarettes; and those who do not use any nicotine product.

    The new findings add “to the growing body of scientific data” showing similar cardiovascular injuries among people who use e-cigarettes and those who smoke traditional cigarettes, the authors summarize. Furthermore, they show that this risk is seen even among younger people who have a shorter history of nicotine use.

    Both analyzes included 164 people who reported using e-cigarettes exclusively for a mean of 4.1 years; 117 people who said they smoked traditional cigarettes exclusively for an average of 23 years; and 114 who had never smoked or vaped.

    In the first, blood pressure, heart rate or the diameter of the brachial artery in the arm, were evaluated: Compared with people who did not consume any nicotine, those who vaped or smoked combustible cigarettes had greater increases in heart rate. In addition, they recorded greater increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and greater constriction of the brachial artery. “Immediately after smoking or vaping, there were concerning changes in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood vessel tone (constriction)”, said study lead author Matthew C. Tattersall.

    In the second analysis, the volunteers’ performance in an exercise test was evaluated and four parameters were observed: metabolic equivalents (a measure of exercise capacity); the workload of the heart at maximal exercise levels; the difference between the estimated maximum heart rate and the resting heart rate; and recovery of the frequency in 60 seconds. Vapers and cigarette smokers performed significantly worse on all four measures, compared to the group that reported no nicotine use. “The performance of vapers was not significantly different from that of people who used fuel cigarettes, even though they had vaped for fewer years than people who smoked and were much younger”, summarizes Christina M. Hughey.

    The third study, led by Boston University, focused on electronic cigarettes with capsule systems -flavors-, very popular among young people. It concludes that its use can lead to exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can negatively affect cardiovascular health, similar to smoking traditional cigarettes. VOCs are a large group of gases found in many common items, such as cleaning products, paint, cigarettes, vehicle exhaust, or pesticides. A total of 106 adults between the ages of 18 and 45 participated, and the results revealed changes in blood vessel health similar to those of traditional cigarette smokers.

    Elevated VOC levels were found in users of both methods, which were associated with changes in measures of vascular health: “These results indicate that e-cigarettes release chemicals that are toxic to blood vessels”, said Sana Majid.
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