Tag Archives: e-cigarette

Electronic cigarettes aren’t good for you — in some respects, they’re worse than traditional cigarettes

E-cigarettes aren’t harmless. Although viewed as a healthier alternative, the study finds that e-cigarette smoking impacts heart health similar to the smoking of traditional cigarettes.

Image via Pixabay.

Several heart disease risk factors — cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels, as well as decreased blood flow in the heart — are negatively impacted by e-cigarette smoke. The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019, later this month.

Not harmless by far

“There is no long-term safety data on e-cigarettes. However, there are decades of data for the safety of other nicotine replacement therapies,” explains Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., FAHA, the American Heart Association’s deputy chief science and medical officer.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the use of FDA-approved smoking cessation aids, which are proven safe and effective. Robertson says that people often choose e-cigarettes as an alternative to quitting (as it is perceived as being safer than traditional tobacco), or as a temporary solution while working to quit altogether. In the latter case, however, she warns that people should also plan how to subsequently stop using e-cigarettes. There is a striking lack of data on the long-term safety of such devices, and growing concerns over the physiological effects caused by the chemical cocktails therein.

One study used in this report — the Cardiovascular Injury due to Tobacco Use (CITU) Study — compared cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels in healthy adult nonsmokers, e-cigarette smokers, traditional cigarette smokers, and dual smokers (who use both traditional and e-cigarettes). Participants were aged 21-45, didn’t have any preexisting cardiovascular disease, and took no relevant medication. Out of the total of 467 participants, 94 were non-smokers, 52 were dual smokers, 45 were e-cigarette smokers, and 285 were traditional cigarette smokers.

After adjusting for age, race, and sex, the team reports that total cholesterol was lower for e-cig smokers, but their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels were higher, compared to nonsmokers. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, ‘good’ cholesterol) was lower in dual smokers.

“Although primary care providers and patients may think that the use of e-cigarettes by cigarette smokers makes heart health sense, our study shows e-cigarette use is also related to differences in cholesterol levels. The best option is to use FDA-approved methods to aid in smoking cessation, along with behavioral counseling,” said study author Sana Majid, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in vascular biology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Another study looked at heart blood flow as a measure of coronary vascular function in 19 young adult smokers (ages 24-32) immediately before and after smoking either e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes. The study looked at this metric both at rest and after performing a handgrip exercise (meant to simulate physiological stress).

For smokers of traditional cigarettes, the team saw a “modest” increase in blood flow after cigarette inhalation, which decreased with subsequent stress. E-cig smokers, however, saw blood flow decrease both at rest and after the handgrip exercises. All in all, e-cigarette use seems to be associated with coronary vascular dysfunction to a greater degree than seen in traditional cigarettes.

“These results indicate that e-cig use is associated with persistent coronary vascular dysfunction at rest, even in the absence of physiologic stress,” said study author Florian Rader, medical director of the Human Physiology Laboratory and assistant director of the Non-Invasive Laboratory, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

“Providers counseling patients on the use of nicotine products will want to consider the possibility that e-cigs may confer as much and potentially even more harm to users and especially patients at risk for vascular disease,” added study co-author Susan Cheng, director of Public Health Research at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The studies were funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, and The California State Tobacco-related Disease Research Program High Impact Pilot Research Award. The American Heart Association Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science provided research materials for the first study.

The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 conference, November 16-18 in Philadelphia, USA (sessions Mo3106, Sa3199).

Vaping might cause lung, heart, and mental health problems

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E-cigarettes are relatively new and despite their wide-scale adoption, many of their health effects are still not thoroughly assessed. What we seem to know with a high degree of confidence so far is that vaping is much less taxing on health than smoking tobacco. What we also know is that vaping isn’t harmless or risk-free. A recent study adds to a body of evidence that suggests e-cigarettes have significant impacts on human health, particularly on the lungs, heart, and mental health.

Researchers at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Surveys in 2014, 2016, and 2017, which included a total of 96,000 people. Compared to individuals who do not smoke or vape, e-cig users were 56% more likely to have a heart attack and 30% more likely to have a stroke. Similarly, higher rates of coronary artery disease and blood clot rates were seen in e-cig users.

Vapers were also more likely to suffer from mental health issues, being twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

The findings, presented at last month’s  American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, should serve as a “real wake-up call and should prompt more action and awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes,” the researchers said. However, this was an observational study, so no cause-effect relationship between vaping and these issues was studied — only whether they’re associated or not. In this particular study, the researchers did not know whether some e-cig users among the participants were former smokers or not, which may have been an important distinction.

However, this isn’t the first study that associated e-cig to harmful effects. In a study for the Nature Reviews Cardiology journal, researchers reported that nicotine and other chemicals found in e-cigarettes can contribute to cardiovascular events, particularly in people with underlying cardiovascular disease. Although vaping does not produce the combustible products associated with smoking, e-cig vapor isn’t totally harmless to the lungs. Inhaling vapor can irritate lung, researchers reported in a study that tracked 28,000 adults.

These health risks are far less dramatic than smoking tobacco, but users should nevertheless be aware of them. This is especially true in today’s context where more and more people who never smoked tobacco are now taking up vaping — and users are getting younger and younger. According to a Vital Signs report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, some 4.9 million high school and middle school students used tobacco in the last 30 days, an increase from 3.6 million in 2017. This trend is amplified by aggressive marketing on behalf of e-cig manufacturers like SMOK Novo and many others.

As mentioned earlier in this article, e-cigs are still relatively new so there is a lot of things we don’t know about their long-term effects, and can’t possibly know until they occur in the general population. This makes vaping a huge challenge to regulators but also to scientists who have the responsibility to answer big questions about the safety of e-cigarette use.



Vaping might be a gateway to smoking tobacco for teenagers

Image credits: Doodle Roy.

Although electronic cigarettes may contain harmful substances many take it up because it’s considered far less harmful than smoking tobacco. That’s certainly true but that doesn’t mean vaping is a benign habit. Since e-cig cartridges contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance, users risk switching to regular cigarettes. Case in point, a new study found 12th graders who vaped were four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes within the next year compared to teens who didn’t vape.

Vape — not so safe

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that resemble traditional cigarettes. Besides nicotine, cartridges may contain flavors such as bubble gum, ice cream or even popcorn! When a user activates the e-cig, the liquid chemicals inside the cartridge become vaporized and inhaled by the smoker. The health risks of vaping aren’t clear yet as research is limited but the FDA started regulating e-cigarettes on August 8, 2016 and has not approved e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking.

Some e-cigs produce almost as much formaldehyde as a traditional cigarette. E-cig particles have a median size of 0.18-0.27 microns, 40 percent of which can travel deep inside the lungs where they can make damage. These nanoparticles can trigger inflammation and have been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

Direct health hazards aside, vaping can also be a gateway to smoking tobacco, according to a recent study conducted by a team from the University of Michigan.

The researchers randomly selected 350 teens from a large survey involving 122 schools around the United States. The participants were surveyed about their smoking habits in the 12th grade and then followed up a year later.

Among teens who vaped in the 12th grade but had never tried a ‘real’ tobacco cigarette, 31 percent tried the tobacco cigarettes a year later. Only 7 percent of teens who didn’t vape or smoke in the 12 grade went on try a tobacco cigarette a year later.

[ALSO READ] Blowing vapor: cigarette use plummets among youth in schools, but e-cigs take their place

Though most teens are aware of the health risks of smoking, many believe e-cigs are harmless. However, 12th graders who vaped were four times more likely to change their views a year later, claiming smoking is ‘less risky’.

“These results contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting vaping as a one-way bridge to cigarette smoking among youth. Vaping as a risk factor for future smoking is a strong, scientifically-based rationale for restricting youth access to e-cigarettes,” the researchers conclude in the journal Tobacco Control.

Though the study limited itself to teens it’s reasonable to assume former smokers who vape could be tempted to smoke cigarettes again. Teens who used to smoke but gave up once they were in the 12th grade were twice as likely to report smoking again a year later if they vaped in high school, compared to those who didn’t vape in the 12th grade.

e-cigarette youth

Blowing vapor: cigarette use plummets among youth in schools, but e-cigs take their place

Electronic cigarettes have soared in use among high school and middle school kids, tripling in 2014, while cigarettes have reached an all time low. The report was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found  4.6 million middle and high school students were current users of any tobacco product, which includes e-cigs despite the fact that it doesn’t burn or contain any tobacco – just the nicotine.

e-cigarette youth

Among high school students, e-cigarette use jumped to 13.4 percent in 2014 from 4.5 percent in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette use over the same period fell to 9.2 percent from 12.7 percent, the largest year-over-year decline in more than a decade. Among middle school students, current e-cigarette use more than tripled to 3.9 percent in 2014 from 1.1 percent in 2013, while cigarette use remained unchanged, the CDC said.

So, should we be excited by the news or, on the contrary, more worried? Tobacco control advocates fear that e-cigs are a “gateway” that promote an unhealthy lifestyle and make kids prone to addiction later in life. Sort of like wearing a seat belt, but driving faster because you feel safer.

“Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.

Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco division, said the data “forces us to confront the reality that the progress we have made in reducing youth cigarette smoking rates is being threatened.”

Just as well, however, the data could be interpreted as a sign that smoking rates fell because young people took up e-cigarettes instead of traditional cigarettes. The CDC said nearly half the students used more than one tobacco product. The most popular was e-cigarettes, followed by hookah. Cigarettes came in third place followed by cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipes.

A  meta-study which examined 81 e-cigarette studies found that these are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, and that their introduction reduces the number of tobacco-related deaths. The long term effects of e-cigarette use are, however, largely unknown. Because of this, the World Health Organization and national authorities are considering policies to restrict their sales, advertising and use given the absence of evidence that they help smokers quit, and the way they are being exploited by the tobacco industry to target children.

The insides of an electronic cigarette

E-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco variety, yet debate still lingers

Electronic cigarettes have increasingly grown in popularity, being marketed as an alternative to smoking tobacco, which contains much more toxic chemicals, and as a means to help smokers put the pipe down for good. There’s been a lot of debate surrounding the health risks following e-cigs use, some voices claiming these do little to help people quite smoking and that they’ve actually become part of the tobacco industry’s ploy to attract children to regular, tobacco cigarettes. A new meta-study that examined 81 e-cigarette studies found that these are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, and that their introduction reduces the number of tobacco-related deaths. The long term effects of e-cigarette use are, however, largely unknown.

[READ] Just a single cigarette has extremely harmful effects

Even so, the World Health Organization and national authorities are considering policies to restrict their sales, advertising and use given the absence of evidence that they help smokers quit, and the way they are being exploited by the tobacco industry to target children. Prof Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University in London is one of the authors of the present study, part of an international team of researchers. He and colleagues found that the risks to users and passive bystanders are far less than those posed by cigarette smoke and that while electronic cigarettes contain a few of the toxins seen in tobacco smoke, these are seen at much lower levels. Furthermore, they found no evidence that children move from experimenting with e-cigarettes to regular use.

“This is not the final list of risks, others may emerge”, he said speaking for the BBC.

“But regulators need to be mindful of crippling the e-cigarette market and by doing so failing to give smokers access to these safer products that could save their lives.

“If harsh regulations are put in place now, we will damage public health on a big scale.”

The insides of an electronic cigarette

The insides of an electronic cigarette

A cigarette has 4,000 plus chemicals and a portion of those have been validated has being cancer causing. E-cigarettes, in contrast, typically contain three substances: flavor, nicotine, and glycol/vegetable glycerine. A review published in the journal Circulation, however, found e-cigs deliver high levels of nanoparticles, the researchers found, which can trigger inflammation and have been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

At least 1 in 5 smokers has tried e-cigarettes, as have 10 percent of U.S. high school students, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No longer a niche products, e-cigs are growing fast and comprise a multi-billion dollar market.

Whatever’s the case, the debate is far from over. On one side we have those who support e-cigs, citing they help reduce tobacco consumption, and the other we have voices who are very skeptical of their benefits and call for immediate regulation. The findings appeared in the journal Addiction.