Despite claims promoting e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to cigarettes, a new study shows that inhaling e-cigarette vapor has an immediate, negative impact on the vascular system from the very first puff, damaging the arteries and veins that carry blood throughout your body.
The results of the study, published August 20 in the medical journal Radiology, indicate that there are “significant changes” to the inner lining of blood vessels after using an e-cigarette that did not contain nicotine.
“The common belief is that the nicotine is what is toxic, but we have found that dangers exist, independent of nicotine,” said Dr. Felix Wehrli, the study’s principal investigator.
After vaping, participants had overall worse circulation, stiffer arteries, and less oxygen in their blood. The researchers found that just one use can damage a user’s blood vessels, decreasing peak blood flow by 17.5 percent and reducing venous oxygen by 20 percent.
“Clearly if there is an effect after a single use of an e-cigarette, then you can imagine what kind of permanent damage could be caused after vaping regularly,” said Dr. Felix Wehrli.
Beside the effects of nicotine, the solvents, flavorings, and additives in the liquid base, after vaporization, damage the user’s respiratory tract and blood vessels.
“The endothelium, which lines the inside surface of blood vessels, is essential to proper blood circulation. Once the endothelium is damaged, arteries thicken, and blood flow to the heart and the brain can be cut off, resulting in heart attack or stroke,” the researchers said.
The results of this study follow an announcement by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of its investigation into a series of lung illnesses linked to vaping reported across multiple states. The federal agency said it’s aiding state health departments as they investigate pulmonary illnesses among adolescents and young adults who reported using vaping devices.
Last year, the surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams, declared vaping among American teens an “epidemic” after the number of middle school students who reported using e-cigarettes increased drastically from less than one percent, in 2011, to 4.9 percent, nearly 1 in every 20 students, in 2018.
Dr. Scott Silverstein, a pulmonology physician with WellSpan Medical Group, says that the biggest concern regarding vaping is that 99% of e cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine, an extraordinarily addictive chemical, can harm the parts of the developing adolescent brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
More research is needed to understand the long-term effects of vaping on vascular health, but in the meantime, researchers and public health officials warn young people not to get started using e-cigarettes.