Vaping every day is linked with twice the risk of a heart attack
Smoking kills. No other habit has been so strongly tied to death.
In addition to inhaling burned tobacco and tar, smokers breathe in toxic metals like cadmium and beryllium, as well as metallic elements like nickel and chromium — all of which accumulate naturally in the leaves of the tobacco plant.
It’s no surprise, then, that much of the available evidence suggests that vaping, which involves puffing on vaporized liquid nicotine instead of inhaling burned tobacco, is at least somewhat healthier. Reaching for a vape pen instead of a conventional cigarette might also be helpful for quitting smoking, though the evidence is somewhat limited.
We don’t have a ton of research on how vaping affects the body and brain. But a handful of studies published this year have begun to illuminate some of the potential health effects of e-cigs.
Vaping every day is linked with twice the risk of a heart attack, while smoking is linked with triple the risk
One of the most worrisome outcomes of that research is a study linking daily vaping to a significantly higher risk of heart attacks.
It is the very first study to show a long-term health impact of e-cigarettes.
The analysis, presented on Saturday at the annual meeting of the nonprofit Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, suggests that people who vape every day may double their risk of having a heart attack compared with people who do not vape or smoke. In comparison, daily cigarette smoking potentially triples the risk.
But the people most at risk are “dual users,” or people who use both devices, according to Stanton Glantz, the lead author on the presentation and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco as well as its director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. People who smoked and vaped every day faced five times the risk of a heart attack as those who took up neither habit, Glantz told Business Insider.
Dual users make up a significant proportion of overall vapers, Glantz said.
”E-cigarettes are widely promoted as a smoking cessation aid but for some, they actually make it harder to quit, so most people end up doing both,” Glantz said. “This is the dominant use.”
Still, the study has a number of limitations, most notably the fact that it could not conclude that vaping (or even smoking, for that matter) caused heart attacks — only that the two were linked. Also, only the study’s abstract has been peer-reviewed; the full paper is still awaiting publication. Glantz said one of the reasons they decided to make the abstract public was to get the word out about the findings as soon as possible.
“We’re the first people to show a long-term impact of e-cigarettes, and given that it’s consistent with what we know biologically about how vaping effects the heart, we wanted to get this out there,” Glantz said.
To arrive at his findings, Glantz looked at national survey data on 70,000 Americans which asked people about their use of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. It also asked if they’d ever suffered a heart attack. After controlling for factors that could muddle their results, like hypertension, the researchers found that people who vaped every day were twice as likely to have suffered a heart attack compared with people who didn’t vape or smoke at all. Daily smokers were three times as likely as non-smokers to have suffered a heart attack.
Other studies in animals and cells have suggested that vaping could stiffen the heart and blood vessels, potentially creating an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks, but this was the first to line up those limited findings with actual health impacts in humans.
The study isn’t the first to suggest that e-cigarettes may come with some important risks.
Some of the same toxic metals that can be found in cigarettes are also found in e-cigs
In 2015, a group of researchers from medical schools across the globe decided to find out just what was inside the vapours that e-cig users were inhaling.
After recruiting 56 daily e-cig users in Baltimore and testing their devices in a lab at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers found that, trapped deep in the aerosol particles that vapers breathe, lurk some of the same toxic metals and metallic elements found in conventional cigarettes, including cadmium and nickel.
They also found potentially unsafe levels of several other dangerous substances such as arsenic, chromium, and manganese.
They published their findings earlier this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
“These heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals — which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale,” Ana Maria Rule, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who led the study.