DALLAS — If you think using e-cigarettes is a safer way to consume nicotine than smoking, think again. Researchers with the American Heart Association say vaping causes changes in cardiovascular function which are similar to the impact of smoking tobacco products for nearly 20 years!
In two new studies, researchers examined the differences in heart health among people who used electronic nicotine delivery devices (e-cigarettes), those who smoked combustible cigarettes, and those who avoided both habits.
In the first study, participants who used either e-cigarettes or traditional tobacco cigarettes displayed higher increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood vessel constriction immediately after using those products. These problems indicate that the body’s sympathetic nervous system — a person’s fight-or-flight response — is activating. Researchers explain that the response becomes more active when someone is under stress, or their body feels the need for more oxygen. However, this can also cause dysfunction in the artery walls.
“Immediately after vaping or smoking, there were worrisome changes in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability and blood vessel tone (constriction),” says lead study author Matthew C. Tattersall, D.O., M.S., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the associate director of preventive cardiology at UW Health, in a media release.
“These findings suggest worse cardiovascular disease risk factors right after vaping or smoking, and activation of the sympathetic nervous system may play a role in the adverse responses seen immediately after using e-cigarettes and after exercise testing 90 minutes later.”
Vapers lose the ability to exercise at full power
In the second study by the same team, researchers found that people who used e-cigarettes consistently performed worse in a treadmill test that predicts heart disease risk. Study authors compared people who vaped to those who never used nicotine.
Specifically, those using e-cigarettes had less exercise ability, completed a smaller cardiac workload when exercising at maximum effort, had a lower heart rate reserve (meaning they were in poorer shape), and had slower heart rate recovery after exercising.
“People who vaped clearly performed worse on all four exercise parameters compared to their peers who did not use nicotine, even after adjusting for age, sex and race/ethnicity,” reports lead author of the study, Christina M. Hughey, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at UW Health. “The exercise performance of those who vaped was not significantly different than people who used combustible cigarettes, even though they had vaped for fewer years than the people who smoked and were much younger.”
Does vaping harm the heart faster than smoking?
Overall, the team found that the negative cardiovascular health among those who vaped was similar to what doctors see among long-time smokers. Even though the average e-cigarette user in the studies was much younger (27.4 years-old) in comparison to the average smoker (42), those who vaped displayed similar levels of poor heart health compared to people who have smoked for nearly two decades!
“These studies add to the growing body of science that shows similar cardiovascular injury among people who use e-cigarettes and those who smoke combustible cigarettes. Additionally, it shows this cardiovascular risk is seen even among younger people who have a shorter history of nicotine use,” concludes Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., FAHA, co-director of the American Heart Association’s National Institutes of Health/Food and Drug Administration-funded Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science.
“People should know that e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes contain addictive nicotine and toxic chemicals that may have adverse effects on their cardiovascular system and their overall health.”
The team is presenting their findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022.