‘Smoking is injurious to health’– is a cliché statement but the quest for ways to quit it remains. Nearly 7 out of 10 smokers say they want to quit smoking. Owing to the skyrocketing popularity, one might get tempted to turn to electronic cigarettes (also called vaping) as a way to ease the transition from traditional cigarettes to complete smoke cessation. The same reason has been used as a prop by e-cigarette manufacturers to tout them as superior alternatives to tobacco smoking. Resultantly, tobacco usage has declined in recent years and the use of e-cigarettes has increased exponentially despite the lack of scientific evidences on their safety and efficacy. According to WHO, there were 7 million users of e- cigarette in 2011 and the number has increased to 41 million in 2018 with a projected increase to more than 55 million by 2021. The lungs are ground zero as there were more than 2,800 cases of lung injuries reported to require hospitalization across the USA, according to the February 2020 CDC report.
What prompts users to try e-cigarettes?
- 80% users find different flavors in e-cigarettes appealing
- Users consider them harmless because they are smoke-free devices
- Nicotine in e-cigarettes acts like a neurotransmitter that gets quickly absorbed in the body and enhances the release of mood-elevating chemicals- dopamine and serotonin
- E-cigarette provides similar behavioral pleasure as traditional cigarettes such as the hand-to-mouth action, users mistook it for the idea that the vaping is, perhaps, a healthier alternative to smoking
- E-cigarettes are not only considered stylish but have a lower per-user cost than traditional cigarettes
Scientists Think That E-cigarettes Are Harmful To Your Heart. Why?
Although the term “vapor” may sound harmless, the aerosol that comes out of an e-cigarette is not just water vapor but it contains particulate matter, metals, carbonyl compounds, and flavorings in addition to nicotine. These ingredients pose a severe threat to the body than smoking tobacco alone.
- Nicotine has been shown to cause increases in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and myocardial infarction.
- Carbonyl compounds cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and atherogenesis. Rat hearts exposed to formaldehyde solution showed comprised cardiac output indicating acute pumping failure.
- The flavorings compounds have been shown to trigger an inflammatory response and endothelial dysfunction.
- Particulate matter enters the bloodstream and directly affects the heart, causing thrombosis, systemic inflammation, alters contraction-relaxation, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. A similar mechanism of injury may be anticipated for e-cigarettes (as they also deliver fine particles), however, the data is still far from conclusive.
- In addition, e-cigarettes contain up to 10 times the level of cancer-causing agents than regular tobacco
Laboratory and Clinical Evidences Point To Potential Heart Risks
A recent study published in the Journal of American Heart Association demonstrated that former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes have stiffer arteries which exert additional stress on the heart and can contribute to the development of heart disease later. The authors also found that the endothelial cells from e-cigarette users produced less of the heart-protective compound-nitric oxide and more reactive oxygen species which damages DNA and causes programmed cell death.
In another study conducted in the laboratory of Joseph Wu, MD, Ph.D., Director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute suggested that acute exposure to e-liquids exacerbates endothelial dysfunction, which often precedes cardiovascular diseases.
Evidences from Holly Middlekauff’s study, a Cardiologist at the University of California, found that habitual e-cigarette use was associated with a shift in cardiac autonomic balance toward sympathetic predominance and increased oxidative stress, both associated with increased cardiovascular risk.
A 2020 systemic review in the journal Cardiovascular Research concluded that vaping is associated with negative cardiovascular effects such as 1) oxidative stress, cytotoxicity, and inflammatory effects, 2) dysregulated platelet function 3) irregular heart rate and blood pressure fluctuation, and 4) vascular injury.
Interestingly in the zebrafish model, e-cigarette use during the gestational period showed negative cardiovascular developmental effects on the offspring. This observation calls for more studies on the cardiovascular developmental effects of e-cigarette exposure during pregnancy.
From A Cardiovascular Scientist Perspective
I believe that e-cigarettes are deceptive as you’re not only smoking nicotine but other harmful chemicals along with. While different constituents of e-cigarette have been shown to individually induce negative effects on the cardiovascular system, the extent to which they act synergistically is yet to be investigated.
The fact that the human body is extremely resilient, the cumulative effects of e-cigarettes may take years to develop, especially in the context of cardiovascular disease. It is like fire in a hay barn. It smokes a little in the beginning but everything went up in flames in the end.
Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death and is responsible for 8 million deaths each year worldwide and reversing the hard-won battle to curb smoking would be detrimental.
If you do not currently smoke or use tobacco products, you should not try e-cigarettes. Do not buy sufferings for your later life.