Vaping increases risk of heart failure by 19 per cent, reveals study. Why e-cigarettes are not safe for the young

8 April 2024

By Anonna Dutt, The Indian Express

Around 23 per cent people in India reported using e-cigarettes, with eight per cent using it daily, according last year’s survey in Preventive Medicine Reports.

For those thinking e-cigarettes are better than conventional smoking, a large US study, which is to be peer-reviewed, now says that vaping at any point in life has been linked to a 19 per cent increase in the risk of heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition where the muscles of the heart either stiffen or become weak and are unable to pump blood properly. “Nicotine in the vaping solution increases your heart rate and blood pressure, stressing your heart with long use. It constricts your blood vessels, makes them less flexible and stiffens them up as in fibrosis,” says Dr Nishith Chandra, Principal Director, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Delhi.

While India is one of the few countries to have banned manufacture, import and sale of e-cigarettes, the products continue to be available in the grey market. Around 23 per cent people in India reported using e-cigarettes, with eight per cent using it daily, according last year’s survey in Preventive Medicine Reports. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey pegs the number of current e-cigarette users at 0.02 per cent of the population.

What is vaping?

Vapes or e-cigarettes electronically heat up a solution of glycerine, flavours and nicotine, the addictive substance in the cigarettes. While people use cigarettes for the nicotine hit, it is the tar from smoking that kills. This is the reason e-cigarettes were pushed as aid for smoking cessation.

There is, however, not enough data to show that the use of e-cigarettes actually helps you quit smoking and users end up using both cigarettes and vapes. Besides, different flavours in vapes may prompt non-smokers to take up the habit. US data shows that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products by students.

What does the recent study say?

The study scanned 1.7 lakh people and followed them up for 45 months. Of them, 3,242 developed a heart failure. The results showed that those who used e-cigarettes at any point were 19 per cent more likely to develop heart failure compared to non-users. Researchers accounted for a history of smoking and other risk factors for heart diseases.

“The difference we saw was substantial. It’s worth considering the consequences to your health, especially with regard to heart health. More and more studies are linking e-cigarettes to harmful effects and finding that it might not be as safe as previously thought,” Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, lead author of the study and the resident physician at MedStar Health in Baltimore, said in a release.

Why does it increase the risk of heart failure?

The researchers also found that vaping increased the odds of a particular type of heart failure called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) — a condition in which the heart muscles become stiff and the heart does not properly fill between contractions. “The heart doesn’t relax between beats. Daily use damages the lining of blood vessels, restricts development of new blood vessels and stokes inflammation. This increases the risk of both heart attacks and strokes,” says Dr Chandra.

What are the other health impacts of vaping?

The nicotine in e-cigarettes may become a source of addiction instead of an aid in quitting regular cigarettes. Accidental exposure to the liquid could also cause acute nicotine poisoning.

Two, with no standardisation of the liquid used, many vapes release chemicals that cause lung diseases and contain cancer-causing compounds and heavy metals.

Three, e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and severe difficulty in breathing. Scientists suspect that it could be because of Vitamin E contamination. “The formaldehyde and acetaldehyde damage the lungs,” says Dr Chandra. A chemical in the vape liquid called diacetyl triggers popcorn lung — an inflammation that leads to permanent scarring of the air sacs and narrowing of airways.