Smokers who occasionally vape are just as likely to suffer from heart and lung damage as those who only smoke cigarettes, study finds

  • US researchers studied the health and smoking habits of some 7,000 people
  • They found those who exclusively vape had lower cardiovascular danger signs
  • However, vaping and using cigarettes was just as bad as smoking the latter alone

Switching out the occasional cigarette for a vape does not reduce a smoker’s chance of suffering from heart and lung damage, a study has warned.

US experts studied the health and smoking habits of some 7,000 Americans — finding that vaping alone was associated with lower cardiovascular danger signs.

However, smoking habits which feature both cigarettes and vaping appear to do just as much harm as smoking cigarettes exclusively.

In the UK, cigarette sales have fallen in recent years, with the proportion of the population that smokes having shrunk from 14.7 to 14.1 per cent from 2018–19.

At the same time, however, the use of e-cigarettes appears to be on the rise, with as many as three million Britons thought to be regular vapers.

Switching out the odd cigarette for a vape does not reduce a smoker’s risk of suffering from heart and lung damage, a study warned. Pictured: cigarettes and their electronic counterpart

In their study, public health expert Andrew Stokes of Boston University and colleagues analysed data on the smoking habits and health of more than 7,000 Americans — focusing on inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

These are key signs which can be used to predict heart attacks and heart failure.

Of the participants, around 10 per cent reported using a combination of both traditional and electronic cigarettes.

The team found that those who vaped exclusively had lower levels of cardiovascular danger signs than those who did not smoke at all.

However, subjects who vaped and smoked had levels of inflammatory and oxidative stress comparable to those who smoked exclusively.

‘This study is among the first to use nationally representative data to examine the association of cigarette and e-cigarette use behaviours with biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress,’ said Dr Stokes.

‘Identifying the association between e-cigarette use and sensitive biomarkers of subclinical cardiovascular injury is necessary for understanding the long-term effects of newer tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.

‘The results could be used to counsel patients about the potential risk of using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes. 

‘Some people who smoke cigarettes pick up e-cigarette use to reduce the frequency with which they smoke cigarettes.

‘They often become dual users of both products rather than switching entirely from one to the other.

‘If e-cigarettes are used as a means to quit smoking, cigarette smoking should be completely replaced and a plan to ultimately attain freedom from all tobacco products should be advised.’

Researchers from the US studied the health and smoking habits of 7,000 Americans — finding that vaping alone was associated with slightly lower cardiovascular danger signs. However, smoking habits which feature both cigarettes and vaping do just as much harm as smoking cigarettes exclusively. Pictured, a young man vapes

Researchers from the US studied the health and smoking habits of 7,000 Americans — finding that vaping alone was associated with slightly lower cardiovascular danger signs. However, smoking habits which feature both cigarettes and vaping do just as much harm as smoking cigarettes exclusively. Pictured, a young man vapes

According to the American Heart Association’s Rose Marie Robertson, the finding ‘has an important message for individuals who may believe using e-cigarettes while continuing to smoke some combustible cigarettes reduces their risk’.

‘This commonly-seen pattern of dual use was not associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers, and thus is not likely to offer a reduction in risk in this specific area,’ Dr Robertson added.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Circulation.

THE HARMS OF VAPING 

E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people, by helping them quit smoking. But scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are truly effective for quitting smoking and what the long-term risks are.

Nicotine is already known to be highly addictive and harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine. Aerosol is inhaled into the lungs and can contain potentially harmful substances, including heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.

US health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are investigating an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). 

The mystery illness has swept across the states. Officials have identified Vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern. THC is present in most of the fluid samples collected from the lungs of ill people, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

‘Popcorn lung’ is the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition which damages the smallest airways in the lungs and has been linked to people with vaping-related breathing problems. However, there’s no good evidence that e-cigarettes could cause the lung condition, according to Cancer Research UK.

The flavourings in electronic cigarettes may damage blood vessels in the same way as heart disease, according to research published in June 2018. 

The chemicals used to give the vapour flavours, such as cinnamon, strawberry and banana, can cause inflammation in cells in the arteries, veins and heart.

They cause the body to react in a way that mimics the early signs of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes, the study by Boston University found. 

Other recent studies have also suggested smoking e-cigarettes could cause DNA mutations which lead to cancer, and enable pneumonia-causing bacteria to stick to the lungs easier. 

Researchers at New York University subjected human bladder and lung cells to e-cigarette vapor, which is marketed as being healthier than tobacco.

They found the cells mutated and became cancerous much faster than expected and mice exposed to the vapour also suffered significant DNA damage. 

In another study, scientists at Queen Mary University, London, found vaping makes users more likely to catch pneumonia – just like smoking tobacco or breathing in traffic fumes.

The vapour from e-cigarettes helps bacteria which cause the condition to stick to the cells that line the airways, they said.

The effect occurs with traditional cigarette smoke and those who are exposed to air pollution high in particulates from vehicle exhausts. 

An April 20202 study found vaping damages the arteries and blood vessel function much like smoking traditional cigarettes.

The team studied measures of blood vessel function in e-cigarette and dual users who had been using e-cigarettes for at least three months.

All e-cigarette users were former cigarette smokers.

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