E-cigarettes may raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes, review finds as experts urge the Government to stop recommending vaping to smokers
- Vapers at increased risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke, scientists warned
- Human studies showed vaping leads to plaque build-up and high blood pressure
- Also increased heart rate, arterial stiffness and clotting, the research team found
- It has sparked calls for Public Health England to stop recommending vaping
Vaping may increase your risk of a heart attack or a stroke, scientists have warned.
Researchers reviewed 38 studies and revealed e-cigarettes caused cardiovascular damage in almost three quarters of tests.
Human studies showed vaping led to an increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as stiffening of the arteries and abnormal clotting.
And it also raised the risk of plaque building up in the artery walls, which can lead to a heart attack, experts said.
Mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour also developed a build-up of plaque in their arteries and suffered damage to the lining of blood vessels.
Vaping may increase your risk of a heart attack or a stroke, despite Public Health England recommending it as a safe option to smoking (file image)
The analysis, conducted by researchers in London and Denmark, has sparked calls for Public Health England (PHE) to stop recommending vaping.
Since 2015 PHE has advised tobacco smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, claiming it is 95 per cent safer. There are now around four million Britons who regularly vape.
However, authors of the new review found the Government used a study funded by the e-cigarette industry to advise that vaping was safe.
Scientists also found the majority of studies funded by the tobacco industry found no harmful effects on the heart.
But when the research team discounted those trials, the number of studies showing cardiovascular harm soared to 90 per cent.
HOW COULD VAPING BE HARMFUL?
The flavourings in electronic cigarettes may damage blood vessels in the same way as heart disease, according to research published in June.
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.
Last week US health officials warned people to quit vaping following the deaths of four people and widespread illness of e-cigarette smokers.
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-authored the new study told The Telegraph: ‘What is amazing is how PHE simply disregards concerns, almost as if people in the UK have lungs that work differently from those in the US.
‘Ever since the first appearance of the “95 per cent safer” figure we have been concerned about conflict of interest.
‘We would be naive not to when dealing with a multi-billion dollar business run largely by the tobacco industry. What is surprising is that some people don’t seem to see this as a problem.’
Asked whether PHE should now change its advice, Professor McKee said: ‘The simple answer is yes.’
In March the University of Kansas looked at 90,000 e-cigarette smokers and found they were 34 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or develop coronary artery disease compared with non-smokers.
In May, researchers at Stanford University suggested vaping may raise the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke because of the flavorings in e-cigarettes.
Scientists who tested the flavored ‘e-liquids’ used in the devices found they damage the cells which line blood vessels, which could lead to cardiovascular disease.
Electronic cigarettes are far less of a health risk than conventional cigarettes because they do not contain the tobacco which causes lung cancer.
However they contain nicotine, which can narrow and harden the arteries, and often flavors to make the vapor they produce more appealing.
The research team tested six flavors, including fruit, tobacco flavors, cinnamon and menthol, on the cells which line blood vessels.
They found the flavorings, including different levels of nicotine, caused DNA damage, cell death and inflammation.
The new study is published in the journal Preventative Medicine.
What is an e-cigarette and how is it different to smoking tobacco?
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows users to inhale nicotine by heating a vapour from a solution that contain nicotine, propylene and flavourings.
As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke like a traditional cigarette.
But while they have been branded as carrying a lower risk than cigarettes, an increasing swell of studies is showing health dangers.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, but the vapor does contain some harmful chemicals.
Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical which makes it difficult for smokers to quit.
Nearly three million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, and more than nine million Americans.
1. Standard e-cigarette
Battery-powered device containing nicotine e-liquid.
It vaporizes flavored nicotine liquid.
Very similar to normal e-cigarettes but with sleeker design and a higher concentration of nicotine.
Thanks to its ‘nicotine salts’, manufacturers claim one pod delivers the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
It is composed of an e-cigarette (battery and temperature control), and a pod of e-liquid which is inserted at the end.
The liquid contains nicotine, chemicals and flavorings.
Like other vaping devices, it vaporizes the e-liquid.
3. IQOS by Philip Morris
Pen-shaped, charged like an iPod.
It is known as a ‘heat not burn’ smokeless device, heating tobacco but not burning it (at 350C compared to 600C as normal cigarettes do).
The company claims this method lowers users’ exposure to carcinogen from burning tobacco.