Vaping may damage the heart just as smoking does

29 April 2020
Aimee Cunningham, ScienceNews

Both vapers and smokers show signs of blood vessel damage, compared with people who do neither

Switching from smoking to vaping may not help with cardiovascular health.

Researchers performed tests on the vascular systems of more than 400 healthy adults aged 21 to 45. Study participants who use cigarettes, e-cigarettes or both had stiffer arteries than those who did not smoke or vape, the researchers report online April 29 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

That stiffness can damage small blood vessels and strain the heart, both of which can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, says Jessica Fetterman, a vascular biologist at Boston University School of Medicine.

Fetterman and colleagues also collected participant samples of cells lining the blood vessels, and exposed those cells to a fluorescent dye that detects nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels and helps stop blood from clotting. Cells taken from smokers and vapers produced less nitric oxide than cells from participants who did not smoke or vape, a sign that smokers’ and vapers’ blood vessels may not be functioning normally.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death for smokers, and some have suggested that switching to e-cigarettes might prove less harmful to health. Many adults who vape are former smokers, and that was true for the e-cigarette users in this study.

The study participants who vaped had been doing so for at least three months. Previous research has shown that healthy smokers who quit can see a reduction in the stiffness of their arteries in as little as four weeks. “Our work suggests that the abnormalities in vascular stiffness persist in e-cigarette users,” Fetterman says. “There was no evidence that the use of e-cigarettes reduces cardiovascular injury” associated with smoking combustible cigarettes.