Vapes may be as harmful on heart and lungs as traditional cigarettes
American Heart Association says vaping is just as bad for the heart as smoking cigarettes
- The highly influential medical organization is the latest to discourage vaping
- Not enough is known about the health effects of using e-cigarettes long-term
- READ MORE: How super-strength e-cigarettes conquered America
E-cigarettes may be as dangerous as traditional tar-filled cigarettes, the leading medical organization for heart health said.
The influential American Heart Association warned that vape devices contain a cocktail of nicotine, thickeners, solvents, and flavors that likely pose the same severe risks to cardiovascular health, including raising blood pressure levels, as smoking cigarettes.
The AHA’s policy to discourage the use of e-cigarettes, once touted as viable smoking cessation products, is one of the strongest to come from an influential medical association in years.
The organization’s stance has been supported by growing evidence pointing to heart and lung damage, science that informed similar policies from the American Medical Association and the American Lung Association in 2019.
E-cigarettes with high concentrations of nicotine contain other compounds that have been shown in lab studies to increase heart and lung diseases in animals. And more research into their long-term effects is needed, especially given more than 2.5 million youth currently use vapes.
The American Heart Association’s call for more research into long-term vaping effects was part of its overall advice to stay away from the devices, which comes about four years after the American Medical Association issued warning
The AHA’s deputy chief science and medical officer Dr Rose Marie Robertson said: ‘E-cigarette companies have suggested that their products are a way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. There is no strong evidence to support this beyond any short-term benefit.
‘The lack of long-term scientific safety data on e-cigarette use, along with the potential for the addiction to e-cigarette products seen among youth, are among the reasons the American Heart Association does not recommend e-cigarette use for cessation efforts.’
For people eager to quit nicotine in any form, the AHA recomends that people use an FDA-approved method such as nicotine replacement gum or patches that go on the skin for up to 24 hours at a time.
Dr Robertson added: ‘And all of this needs to be undertaken with the understanding that quitting often takes many tries, and any failures should be seen as just episodes to learn from on the road to finally beating a powerful addiction for good.’
More research is needed into the long-term effects on the heart, lungs, and blood vessels and further research is also needed on people who report smoking traditional cigarettes along with e-cigarettes – so-called dual users – compared with e-cigarette users and nonsmokers.
E-cigarettes were introduced to the US in the early 2010s and caught on quickly as millions of people bought into manufacturers’ arguments that the products were a safer way to get a nicotine fix than smokable cigarettes.
Dr Jason Rose, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine and chair of the AHA’s scientific statement writing committee, said: ‘Because e-cigarettes and other vaping systems have only been in the U.S. for about 15 years, we do not yet have enough information on their long-term health effects, so we must rely on shorter-term studies, molecular experiments and research in animals to try to assess the true risk of using e-cigarettes.’
Vaping is just as bad as cigarettes for your heart, NIH finds
Using e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes together is likely to worsen cardiovascular health than the use of either of them alone as they both cause irritation due to the inhalation of a foreign substance as well as damage to blood vessels.
But while the devices generate a vapor free of acrid smoke and tar, the heart and lung health experts at the AHA said they still know far too little about the effects of using the vape devices for years on end. Already, doctors on the ground have seen sizable health harms play out in the form of acute lung injuries in 2019.
Dr Rose said: ‘E-cigarettes deliver numerous substances into the body that are potentially harmful, including chemicals and other compounds that are likely not known to or understood by the user.
‘The long-term risks of using e-cigarettes are unknown, but if the risks of chronic use are like combustible cigarettes, or even if the risks are reduced but still present, we may not observe them for decades.
‘What is equally concerning is that studies show that some youth who use e-cigarettes go on to use other tobacco products, and there is also a correlation between e-cigarette use and substance use disorders.’
The 2019 outbreak of lung injuries saw more than 2,800 hospitalizations. Fifteen percent were in under-18s.
This sparked a staunch warning from the highly influential American Medical Association against using e-cigarettes, as well as a call for an all-out ban on products not approved as smoking cessation aids (at the time, there were no FDA-approved devices).
In addition to containing high concentrations of the addictive chemical nicotine, often as much as five percent, e-cigarettes contain risky additives, including flavoring agents, glycerol, and metals that are released into the liquids when the battery heats up.
Long-term exposure to diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, two flavoring additives, has been linked to shortness of breath, chronic cough, asthma, and obstructed airways.
For instance, the authors of the statement cited evidence that exposing the cells that line the airways and lungs to aerosol produced by eight different types of flavored Juul pods increased inflammation, caused damage to the cells’ DNA, and impaired the function of the lung’s protective barrier.
Another common ingredient in e-cigarettes under scrutiny is glycerol, a vehicle for flavors and the compound that produces the tickle in the back of the throat that many smokers crave when looking for a non-cigarette alternative.
More than 2.5 million US children use e-cigarettes – rising a half-million from last year and reversing downward trends in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) reports that 2.55 million Americans in middle or high school admit to using the device in the past 30 days. It is a jump of 500,000, or of 24 per cent, from 2021. It is the first increase since the CDC started gathering annual data in 2019
The legal purchasing age for e-cigarettes has been raised from 18 to 21, though not all vendors ask customers for age verification
The AHA experts wrote: ‘Glycol mixtures are used to create theatrical fog and smoke, and long-term occupational exposure is associated with higher reports of wheezing and chest tightness.
‘Short-term exposure to glycol mixtures is associated with acute dry cough and throat irritation, as well as decreased lung function in individuals with higher exposures.’
A recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yielded a shocking finding – that more than 2.5 million American youth are hooked on nicotine in e-cigarette devices.
Dual e-cig and traditional cigarette use simultaneously worsens risk
– E-cigarettes and traditional combustible cigarettes on their own can cause a host of inflammatory and heart problems
– When used simultaneously, the health effects could be even worse
– Long-term use of either caused damage to blood vessels, though each appeared to cause some adverse effects that the other does not, suggesting that dual use of the products compounds the damage.
– Blood from the e-cig users caused more permeability in the blood vessel cells than the blood from both tobacco smokers and nonusers, raising the risk of cell damage and heart disease.
– Blood from tobacco smokers had higher levels of certain circulating biomarkers of cardiovascular risks
– Lead author of the study said using both products together ‘could increase their health risks compared to using them individually’
Manufacturers and retailers have signaled their willingness to put out products that entice young people, even those who otherwise would not have picked up a nicotine product, drawing the ire of medical experts and parents.
The rate at which American high school students used e-cigarettes regularly jumped 25 percent from 2021 to 2022, driven primarily by disposable devices such as the mega-popular Elf Bar.
Juul also appeared to mimic advertising tropes used with much success by tobacco companies, an example of the burgeoning industry taking a page out of the latter’s playbook.
It took decades of pressure and research from the medical and research communities to hold tobacco industries accountable for falsely insisting that their products were not addictive.
The US Surgeon General first warned of a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer in 1964, but it was not until the late 80s and 90s when people began getting seriously sick after years of smoking that attitudes began to change.
A similar campaign has appeared to play out for e-cigarettes, with industry heavy hitters like Juul now enemy number one for helping to hook about 2.6 million American teens on nicotine.
Now, just as focused around the notion that more should be done to regulate access to cigarettes and the companies that make them, influential groups like the AHA and the AMA have been calling for stricter regulations on who can buy them, use them and where.
There was a brief window of time in which e-cigarettes were accepted in indoor public places, even hospitals, an idea that MAY appear outlandish but at second glance might not be, given that smoking was only banned in bars and restaurants about 20 years ago.
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