Electronic cigarettes, otherwise known as “e-cigs,” have long been advertised as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. After all, while conventional cigarettes use may triple the risk of heart attacks, electronic cigarettes use only doubles the risk! But wait a minute. E-cigs still play a large role in amplifying the risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases. And it’s important to know why and how.
E-cigs are electronic nicotine delivering systems that generate an aerosolized mixture containing flavored liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user (3). While e-cigs do deliver lower levels of carcinogens than conventional cigarettes, they expose users to high levels of toxins that have been linked to cardiovascular disease, non-cancer lung disease, and DNA damage (2).
Many studies suggest that e-cigs negatively impact vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. Both heart rate and diastolic blood pressure has been shown to increase after e-cig use. However, it is worth nothing that they increase to a lesser extent when compared with conventional cigarettes, which can lead to many people reasoning about the “safer” nature of e-cigs (3).
Additionally, e-cigs have also been associated with endothelial cell dysfunction and oxidative stress, which pose as important players in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. For instance, e-cig use had been found to cause a rapid increase in the number of circulating endothelial progenitor cells, which is linked to acute endothelial dysfunction and vascular injury (3).
Moreover, e-cigs can also cause DNA damage. A research team exposed 10 male mice to e-cig vapor that contained 10 milligrams of nicotine. After their study, they found that the mice exposed to e-cig vapor showed DNA damage in their heart, lungs, and bladder. What’s even more intriguing: the exposure to e-cig vapor actually even put a stop to DNA repair processes in the mice’s lung tissue! (4) And to top that off, the research team proposed that e-cig smokers may have a higher risk than non-smokers to develop lung and bladder cancer and heart diseases. Just when we thought that e-cigs were safer than conventional cigarettes in all areas!
After learning about the apparent risks of e-cig use, what’s probably the most disarming is the wide prevalence of e-cigs due to their “trendy” appeal. Since the introduction of electronic cigarettes in 2007, e‐cigs have experienced widespread success among smokers, nonsmokers, pregnant females, and even youth. It has been reported that youths are attracted to e-cigs mainly because of their curiosity and the “appealing” flavored nature of e-liquids. What’s even more alarming is that this cohort has the highest increase in usage, as 5.3% of all users are middle school students and 16% are high school students. That’s not good. Why? Well, when adolescents are exposed to e-cigs, the nicotine in the e-cigs can disrupt brain development as well as hinder attention and learning (4). Thus, there is every reason for us to be concerned about e-cig use.
Needless to say, e-cigs can be safer than conventional cigarettes to a certain extent. But they still pose high-risk threats to your health in regards to cardiovascular disease, DNA damage, brain development, and even more. While there is still need for more research to be conducted on e-cigs and their potential health risks, it’s probably safe to just stay away from e-cigs for the time being.
- Coughlin, Sara. “Why Vaping Isn’t As Safe As People Think.” Transgender Experience Awkward Ted Talk Jackson Bird, Refinery29, 26 Feb. 2018, refinery29.com/2018/02/191803/vaping-health-risks-e-cigarettes-heart-attack.
- Fernandez, Elizabeth. “Smoking E-Cigarettes Daily Doubles Risk of Heart Attacks.” UC San Francisco, 24 Feb. 2018, ucsf.edu/news/2018/02/409916/smoking-e-cigarettes-daily-doubles-risk-heart-attacks.
- Qasim, Hanan, et al. “Impact of Electronic Cigarettes on the Cardiovascular System.” Journal of the American Heart Association, American Heart Association, Inc., 1 Sept. 2017, jaha.ahajournals.org/content/6/9/e006353.
- Whiteman, Honor. “E-Cigarettes May Cause Cancer and Heart Disease, Says Study.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 30 Jan. 2018, medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320778.php.