E-cigarettes containing nicotine linked to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, study finds

But they're becoming increasingly popular as people try to quit smoking

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 12 September 2017 12:19 BST

Many people consider e-cigarettes a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes.

But according to a new study, they could increase your risk of heart attack and stroke if they contain nicotine.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute, a medical university in Stockholm, found that vaping devices containing nicotine can result in a stiffening of the arteries, as well as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Vaping is now a £1billion industry in the UK, and the market is still growing too.

E-cigarettes are commonly considered to be a stepping stone for people trying to quit smoking entirely, but the new study suggests they may be more dangerous than previously thought.

The researchers recruited 15 healthy volunteers who’d never smoked e-cigarettes before for their study.

After running a series of tests, they found that 30 minutes after vaping, the participants had experienced a significant increase in blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness.

These side effects weren’t experienced by the participants who’d smoked e-cigarettes without nicotine though.

Lead researcher Dr Magnus Lundback said: “The number of e-cigarette users has increased dramatically in the last few years. E-cigarettes are regarded by the general public as almost harmless.

“The industry markets their product as a way to reduce harm and to help people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the safety of e-cigarettes is debated, and a growing body of evidence is suggesting several adverse health effects.

“The results are preliminary, but in this study we found there was a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure in the volunteers who were exposed to e-cigarettes containing nicotine. Arterial stiffness increased around three-fold in those who were exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarettes compared with the nicotine-free group.”

The study size was small and the effects were temporary, but Lundback believes repeated usage of e-cigarettes could have permanent effects.

Some experts, however, have spoken out about the study's results.

Dr Tim Chico, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine & consultant cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said:

“Electronic cigarettes are certain to have some health effects, and it is very important that non-smokers do not start using them erroneously thinking that they are harmless. However, the key question is whether they are as harmful as conventional cigarettes, and this seems very unlikely, particularly if they are used as a bridge to quitting all cigarettes completely.

“Although it is important to understand the effects of electronic cigarettes, this should not detract from the fact that smoking conventional cigarettes reduces life expectancy by ten years and causes chronic diseases that devastate quality of life.”

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