E-cigarettes linked to increased arterial stiffness, blood pressure and heart rate in humans

September 11, 2017, European Lung Foundation
Credit: TheNorlo/Wikipedia

New research has shown for the first time that e-cigarettes with nicotine cause a stiffening of the arteries in humans. This has important implications for the use of e-cigarettes, as arterial stiffness is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life.

Presenting the research at the European Respiratory Society International Congress today, Dr Magnus Lundbäck said: "The number of users has increased dramatically in the last few years. E-cigarettes are regarded by the general public as almost harmless. The e-cigarette industry markets their product as a way to reduce harm and to help people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the safety of e-cigarettes is debated, and a growing body of evidence is suggesting several adverse health effects.

"The results are preliminary, but in this study we found there was a significant increase in and in the volunteers who were exposed to e-cigarettes containing . Arterial stiffness increased around three-fold in those who were exposed to nicotine containing e-cigarettes compared to the nicotine-free group."

Dr Lundbäck (MD, PhD), who is a research leader and clinical registrar at the Danderyd University Hospital, Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues recruited 15 young, healthy volunteers to take part in the study in 2016. The volunteers were seldom smokers (smoking a maximum of ten cigarettes a month), and they had not used e-cigarettes before the study. The average age was 26, and 59% were female, 41% male. They were randomised to use e-cigarettes with nicotine for 30 minutes on one of the study days and e-cigarettes without nicotine on the other day. The researchers measured blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness immediately after smoking the e-cigarettes and then two and four hours later.

In the first 30 minutes after smoking e-cigarettes containing nicotine, there was a significant increase in blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness; no such effect was seen on heart rate and arterial stiffness in the volunteers who had smoked e-cigarettes without nicotine.

"The immediate increase in arterial stiffness that we saw is most likely attributed to nicotine," said Dr Lundbäck. "The increase was temporary. However, the same temporary effects on arterial stiffness have also been demonstrated following use of conventional cigarettes. Chronic exposure to both active and passive cigarette smoking causes a permanent increase in arterial stiffness. Therefore, we speculate that chronic exposure to e-cigarettes with nicotine may cause permanent effects on arterial in the long term. As of today, there are no studies on the long-term effects on following chronic e-cigarette exposure.

"It is very important that the results of this and other studies reach the general public and the health care professionals working in preventive health care, for example in smoking cessation. Our results underline the necessity of maintaining a critical and cautious attitude towards e-cigarettes, especially for . E-cigarette users should be aware of the potential dangers of this product, so that they can decide whether to continue or quit based on scientific facts."

He continued: "The marketing campaigns of the e-cigarette industry target current cigarette smokers and offer a product for smoking cessation. However, several studies question the e-cigarette as a means of cessation, and there is a high risk of double use, where people use both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. Furthermore, the e-cigarette industry also targets non-smokers, with designs and flavours that appeal to a large crowd, even the very young, and that carry the risk of a lifelong nicotine addiction. The e-cigarette industry is expanding on a global scale. Some calculations suggest that in the USA alone, the e-cigarette industry will surpass the conventional cigarette industry within the next few years.

"Therefore, our research concerns a very large population and our results may prevent future health problems for a huge number of people. It is of the utmost importance to investigate further the possible long-term effects of daily e-cigarette use through studies that are funded independently of the e-cigarette industry."

Dr Lundbäck and his colleagues are continuing to investigate the effects of e-cigarettes on blood vessel and lung functions in humans, as well as carrying out studies in the lab of the effect of e-cigarette vapour and liquid on cell cultures.

Explore further: Daily e-cigarette users had highest rates of quitting smoking

More information: Abstract no: OA1979, "Acute effects of active e-cigarette inhalation on arterial stiffness"; Effects of air pollution on asthma and COPD session, 10.45-12.45 hrs CEST, Monday 11 September, Brown 1+2 (south).

Related Stories

Daily e-cigarette users had highest rates of quitting smoking

August 17, 2017
Among U.S. adults who were established smokers in the past five years, those who use e-cigarettes daily were significantly more likely to have quit cigarettes compared to those who have never tried e-cigarettes. Researchers ...

Increase in e-cigarette use, decrease in smoking, is encouraging, expert says

April 20, 2015
The increase in electronic cigarette use, coupled with a decrease in smoking, could be a positive sign for the prevention of cigarette use, said Lynn Kozlowski, University at Buffalo professor of community health and health ...

Mothers who vape during pregnancy put babies at asthma risk

April 13, 2017
A UTS-led study of the effects of smoking electronic cigarettes during pregnancy has been hailed by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) in its stand against legalising nicotine in e-cigarettes.

Depression linked to e-cigarette use among college students

February 13, 2017
The emergence of e-cigarettes as a nicotine product has left scientists with many questions about their impact on health, including how the product interacts with depression. A new study by researchers at The University of ...

Habitual e-cigarette use associated with risk factors linked to increased cardiovascular risk

February 1, 2017
In a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, Holly R. Middlekauff, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues examined whether habitual users of electronic cigarettes ...

Nearly two-thirds of smokers also use E-cigarettes: CDC

October 31, 2016
(HealthDay)—Many American adults who use electronic cigarettes also smoke tobacco cigarettes, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey reveals.

Recommended for you

Just a few minutes of light intensity exercise linked to lower death risk in older men

February 19, 2018
Clocking up just a few minutes at a time of any level of physical activity, including of light intensity, is linked to a lower risk of death in older men, suggests research published online in the British Journal of Sports ...

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Study suggests possible link between highly processed foods and cancer

February 14, 2018
A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between intake of highly processed ("ultra-processed") food in the diet and cancer.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.