This study was carried out by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (KI; Solna, Sweden), and presented at the at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress, held during September 2017 in Milan (Italy).
The research authors recruited 15 healthy participants of average age of 26, who smoke only on an occasional basis, and had never used e-cigarettes before the study. The participants were instructed to use nicotine containing e-cigarettes for 30 minutes on one of the study days, and non-nicotine containing ones on another day, after which their BP, heart rate, and arterial stiffness were measured.
The researchers found significant increases in these vitals in the first 30 minutes after using the nicotine-containing devices, while no such effects were reported when vaping the non-nicotine containing models.
“The immediate increase in arterial stiffness that we saw is most likely attributed to nicotine; the increase was temporary. However, the same temporary effects on arterial stiffness have also been demonstrated following use of conventional cigarettes,” said senior author and study presenter Magnus Lundbäck, MD, PhD. “Therefore, we speculate that chronic exposure to e-cigarettes with nicotine may cause permanent effects on arterial stiffness in the long term.”
E-cigs are significantly safer than regular cigarettes
However public health experts have responded to such claims by pointing out the importance of putting such results in the right context. In line with what several studies have indicated, Dr Tim Chico, who is a reader in Cardiovascular Medicine and a consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, believes that although not completely risk free, e-cigarettes are significantly safer than their combustible counterparts.
“Electronic cigarettes are certain to have some health effects, and it is very important that non-smokers do not start using them erroneously thinking that they are harmless. However, the key question is whether they are as harmful as conventional cigarettes, and this seems very unlikely, particularly if they are used as a bridge to quitting all cigarettes completely,” he said said when speaking at the same conference.
“Although it is important to understand the effects of electronic cigarettes, this should not detract from the fact that smoking conventional cigarettes reduces life expectancy by ten years and causes chronic diseases that devastate quality of life,” he concluded.
Putting facts in the right context
Prof. Peter Hajek, who is the director at the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), agrees with Dr. Chico. He pointed out that there are other things that have the same effect on the body, and are considered irrelevant in terms of health risks. “This is a well-known stimulant effect of nicotine that has little relevance for health. Drinking coffee has the same effect, only greater and longer lasting (as does watching a dramatic football match).”
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