Researchers Find Vaping Impairs Vascular Function (But Not More Than Smoking)

New research finds that vaping e-cigarettes hurts vascular function immediately—even when no nicotine is present. This revelation follows what may be the first death from vaping, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating.

Vaping e-cigarettes is increasingly popular as more Americans try to quit smoking. More than 9 million American adults now use e-cigarettes.

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students vaped e-cigarettes. This is the problem, and the source of much of the alarm surrounding the topic.

The rest surrounds the lack of knowledge about some components manufacturers use in some e-cigarettes.

“The use of e-cigarettes is a current public health issue because of widespread use, especially among teenagers, and the fact that the devices are advertised as safe despite uncertainty about the effects of long-term use,” post-doctoral researcher Alessandra Caporale, PhD, confirmed in the press release.

Vaping and Vascular Function

Any vaping causes particles of whatever is inhaled to reach the alveoli of the lungs. There they enter the bloodstream.

The researchers say some e-cigarette solutions contain substances that are potentially harmful when vaporized. Once in the bloodstream, these compounds can cause inflammation and impair vascular function.

To test how vaping might affect systemic vascular function, the team conducted a series of MRI exams. The patients included 31 healthy non-smokers, with an average age of 24, about half men and women.

The team conducted MRI scans of the femoral artery in the leg, the aorta in the heart, and the brain on each subject. The patients vaped nicotine-free e-cigarettes with pharma-grade glycerol with flavoring and propylene glycol both before and after the scans.

The team found that a single instance of vaping reduced blood flow and impaired vascular reactivity. In fact, they observed a 34 percent reduction in the artery’s ability to expand to accommodate blood flow in the femoral artery. There were also drops in peak flow and blood acceleration.

“These products are advertised as not harmful, and many e-cigarette users are convinced that they are just inhaling water vapor,” Dr. Caporale said in the release. “But the solvents, flavorings, and additives in the liquid base, after vaporization, expose users to multiple insults to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.”

VV contacted the research team for comment: “The researchers cannot fulfill this request, since VaporVanity is primarily a product-oriented site. As an institution, we have strict conflict of interest policies, and need to avoid any appearances of endorsement.”

Vaping, Smoking, and Vascular Function

I agree that anyone who vapes wants to know what is in what they are consuming, including me.

Many adults who vape e-cigarettes do so because they don’t want to smoke conventional cigarettes. I don’t think vaping e-cigarettes is harmless. I think it is part of a harm reduction strategy. Am I wrong?

I conducted some of my own research—and it wasn’t easy. In fact, some harm reduction sites accessible in the UK are blocked here in the United States. Why that is, I leave to your analysis.

According to Public Health England, vaping e-cigarettes is about 95 percent less harmful than smoking conventional cigarettes. PHE also concludes that smoking tobacco causes tremendous harm.

E-cigarettes are not free of risk. However, compared to the known risks of smoking tobacco, vaping e-cigarettes remains “far safer” and a lower risk.

The researchers in this case are certainly right: more study is needed. Vapers want a safer product, and quitting altogether is best from a health perspective. But for people struggling to quit smoking, vaping e-cigarettes is still safer.

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