Experts have warned the quit smoking aids can increase a person’s risk of two main signs of heart disease
E-CIGARETTES could be just as bad for your heart as regular ciggies, new evidence suggests.
Tests showed regularly vaping puts people at risk of cardiovascular disease.
And users of the quit smoking aids were more likely to develop heart problems than non-smokers.
Experts compared 23 vapers, who used the devices every day for a year, with 19 people who didn’t smoke.
All those taking part were aged between 21 and 45 years old.
The findings published in JAMA Cardiology found vapers were more likely to show signs of two key heart risk factors, which are known to lead to heart disease.
Dr Holly Middlekauf, from University of California, Los Angeles, said: “Nicotine, which is the major bioactive ingredient in e-cigarette aerosol, with its metabolities, may harbour unrecognised, sustained adverse physiologic effects that lead to an increased cardiovascular risk profile in habitual e-cigarette users.”
Those changes were increased cardiac sympathetic activity – or increased levels of the hormone adrenaline in the heart – and increased oxidative stress.
Prof Paul Aveyard, from the University of Oxford, wasn’t part of the new study, but explained: “Oxidative stress is probably one of the main ways that cigarettes cause heart disease.
“It’s an important part of why cigarettes block our arteries.”
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term used for all diseases of the heart and circulation system – and includes heart attack, stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease.
CVD causes more than 26 per cent of all deaths in the UK – that’s 160,000 deaths each year, 435 a day or one death every three minutes.
The rechargeable devices, which are aimed at helping people quit their habit, sell for as little as £5.
They have been branded a “gateway to smoking”, with some experts claiming they are encouraging a new generation of smokers.
They give a nicotine hit but with no tobacco toxins.
Quitting smoking is widely regarded as the single most important step a person can take to improve their heart health.
Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, explained that is because smoking causes severe damage to all parts of the body, increasing a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke.
He said: “While e-cigarettes have become a popular quit smoking aid, they are unregulated and contain varying amounts of nicotine and other chemical substances.
“Over time this can be harmful and this research highlights what some of those future risks may be.”
He said in the short-term vaping can be a useful stepping stone to quitting smoking.
“But the ultimate goal is to stop using e-cigarettes too,” he added.
“If you need any support quitting smoking, make an appointment to see your GP or local stop smoking service.”
Sarah Williams, director of policy at health charity Action on Smoking and Health, said it can be difficult to draw firm conclusions from such a small study.
But, she added: “There is general agreement that smoking is far more dangerous than using e-cigarettes.
We also know that using e-cigarettes can help some smokers to quit, which reduces their risk not just of heart disease but other diseases such as cancer.”
The new findings come after experts from University College London warned about links between the devices and heart disease last year.
Prof Charalambos Viachopoulos from the University of Athens Medical School, told the largest gathering of heart experts in Rome, e-cigarettes are “far more dangerous than people realise”.
He warned: “E-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes but they are not harmless.
“There could be long term heart dangers.
“They are far more dangerous than people realise.
“I wouldn’t recommend them now as a method to give up smoking. I think the UK has rushed into adopting this method.”
Prof Linda Bauld, from the University of Stirling also urged caution.
She said: “These findings cannot conclude that heart disease will develop as a result of vaping without smoking…. it does not prove that vaping causes heart disease.
“However, the questions posed in this study do merit research with longer term follow up.”
Health officials last year claimed e-cigs were 95 per cent safer than tobacco and GPs will soon be able to prescribe them alongside nicotine patches and gum to help smokers quit.
That damage – known as arterial stiffness – is the main predictor of heart disease.