A new study confirms that e-cigs damage your heart

The damage might not be "as bad" as traditional cigarettes, but it's still pretty bad.

  • E-cigarettes reduce the amount of nitric oxide being produced, increasing the likelihood of heart damage.
  • Vaping might be "healthier" than smoking traditional cigarettes, but as more research continues to be published, e-cigs are certainly not being shown as "healthy."
  • Juul's recent removal of flavored pods from retail outlets was pre-empting forthcoming FDA regulations.

The notion that e-cigarettes are "healthier" than regular cigarettes quickly created another billion-dollar industry. The public imagination in the Information Age allowed for such quick transmission of data, even if these data were bogus. It was bad enough that adults were hooked—good enough for non-smokers, who no longer had to deal with toxic fumes trailing smokers. Then kids started getting hooked; the song changed.

By this fall, nearly 20 percent of middle and high school students have partaken in vaping. The e-cig industry was relying on a lack of credible research, not a surplus of honest studies. A "smaller concentration of toxic substances" does not negate harmful effects; it might reduce them, at best. Forget the addiction question, people simply transferred their cravings to another device, or, worse, an entirely new category of smokers were indoctrinated by flavors like Mango Mangue, Gummi Bear, and Blue Raz Cotton Candy.

Under public pressure, Juul, which controls 70 percent of the e-cig market in the United States, announced it would stop selling most flavored pods in retail outlets, pre-empting FDA plans to tighten regulations on teen smoking. Juul Labs is dedicating $30 million to independent research to battle this trend (transparency about the studies and researchers are hopefully forthcoming; corporations sponsoring research rarely works out well for the public). Their move is equivalent to Nestle launching an anti-sugar crusade to combat youth obesity.

The reality is Juul would have had to have done this anyway, if it hoped to save face. Given how long and hard the cigarette industry has fought regulations and attempted to assert its will into the fabric of society through questionable marketing, it's hard to imagine this as a purely benevolent move. Vaping might be "healthier" than smoking, but the idea that it's not dangerous is laughable.

For example, in August a study at the University of Birmingham discovered that vaping liquid produces inflammatory cytokines, which over the course of decades could contribute to heart problems. Now a new study that was recently presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions confirms that, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigs cause endothelial cells to produce less nitric oxide, leading to heart damage.

Nitric oxide (NO) is a byproduct shared by almost all forms of organic life. The inner lining of blood vessels (endothelium) use nitric oxide in vasodilation, widening blood vessels, to increase blood flow. Producing less NO results in constricted blood flow, one of the main reasons regular smokers suffer from cardiovascular damage.

The FDA has ordered e-cigarette product makers to devise a plan to keep their devices away from minors, declaring use by teens has reached an 'epidemic proportion'.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dr. Leila Mohammadi, the lead researcher on this latest study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, notes that in this regard, vaping is not much safer than cigarettes.

We showed that blood serum from electronic cigarette users has harmful effects that are similar to that of (tobacco) cigarettes on endothelial cell functions. This harmful effect is likely to adversely affect arteries and cardiovascular health.

University of Louisville professor of medicine, Aruni Bhatnagar, notes that the tobacco industry has a vested interest in promoting the idea that e-cigs are safer. Big players in tobacco, such as R.J. Reynolds, British American Tobacco, and Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) all have vaping divisions that are driving more and more revenue into their coffers. The device changes while the addiction remains the same.

The latest study's principal investigator, Matthew Springer, sums up the whole cigarette vs. vaping debate in the simplest terms possible. It's an argument that anyone employed in the tobacco industry will continue to fight against, regardless of how basic this knowledge is.

Anything you inhale other than clean air seems to be causing vascular problems. Rather than try to find the things to inhale that aren't as bad as cigarettes, we might have to realize (we need) to just breathe clean air.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…