Millions of people – including a vast number of teens – are using e-cigarettes under the assumption that they’re safer than traditional tobacco products.
But now researchers have uncovered evidence that inhaling flavored vaping liquids could be bad for the heart – even those that don’t contain nicotine.
This new study focused on endothelial cells, which line the walls of blood vessels and play a critical role in heart health. They’re also more likely to die off if exposed to cigarette smoke.
To determine if vaping liquids might also impact these cells, researchers at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute grew endothelial cells in a lab from blood samples drawn from 14 people: five smokers, five nonsmokers, two e-cigarette users, and two who use both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco cigarettes.
The cells were then exposed to six flavors of vapor from e-cigarettes the researchers had purchased online. They also tracked what happened when those cells were bathed in blood taken from people right after they had an e-cigarette, which is the way vaping chemicals would travel through the cardiovascular system.
Even without nicotine, vaping liquids and certain flavors caused the type of blood vessel dysfunction that can lead to heart disease. Cinnamon and menthol seemed to do the most damage. Although the effects weren’t as severe, caramel and vanilla flavors also disrupted endothelial cells.
This led the researchers to suspect that different components of e-cigarette liquids might affect blood vessels in different ways.
“If you’re a chronic e-cigarette [user], you’re probably going to be prone to more vascular disease in the future,” Dr. Joseph Wu, the Institute’s Director and lead author on the study, told HealthDay News. “It doesn’t have the carcinogens associated with smoking, but don’t use e-cigarettes with the assumption that if I switch to e-cigarettes it will be good for my cardiovascular health.”
While Wu acknowledged that the findings weren’t enough to prove vaping liquids cause heart disease, the results will likely trigger even more research on the subject.
The study was published online May 27th in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.