Researchers Study E-Cigarettes. E-cigarettes have steadily gained popularity in the global quest to curb or stop the smoking of traditional cigarettes. The belief that ‘vaping’ is a safer alternative, even encouraged by health professionals, has however, recently come under scrutiny as not the definitive answer to quitting smoking ‘real’ cigarettes.
Tobacco companies, are of course, anxious to defend their profits, and are joining this movement by buying up brands and creating their own products. However, an increasing number of studies has cast a serious shadow on the assumption that e-cigarettes are practically a harmless alternative and therefore a solution for many smokers.
At the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, scientists have found that just ten puffs on an e-cigarette is enough to cause physiological changes that, to quote one leading expert, “start the heart disease ball rolling.” This study joins others which have discovered that, just like ‘real’ cigarettes, e-cigarettes raise blood pressure and increase a hardening of the arteries. Additional research reveal that the food additives used to flavor the vapor may be dangerous when heated and then inhaled.
Despite studies, numerous medical groups still support encouraging smokers to make the switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes. Public Health England has issued a statement announcing that the devices are “around 95 percent less harmful than smoking.” In addition, the Royal College of GPs (General Practitioners) advised its 52,000 members to recommend those trying to stop smoking to switch to e-cigarettes. Critics of this opinion are however, unconvinced by this enthusiasm toward the e-cigarette alternative.
Questions Concerning Long-Term E-Cigarette Use
“Many health organizations across the UK have significant concerns about promoting e-cigarettes to smokers. We simply can’t know what their effect will be on health, if used over the long term, because they have not been around long enough. To me, it would be sensible to take a precautionary approach and regulate them as much as possible,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Filippos Filippidis, lecturer in public health at Imperial College, London, said, “We don’t know whether we may start to see diseases emerge in ten or 20 years’ time associated with some of the ingredients. We urgently need more research into the devices.” Dr. Filippidis’ warning is especially pertinent as it took decades for the link between tobacco and lung cancer to emerge.
In the Karolinska study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, Swedish researchers asked 16 occasional smokers of traditional cigarettes to each take ten puffs on an e-cigarette. Within the first hour, scientists said there was a “rapid rise” in levels of a kind of cell indicating damage to the inner lining of blood vessels, called endothelial progenitor cells or EPCs. This increase “was of the same magnitude as following smoking of one traditional cigarette,” they wrote. This “very short exposure to e-cigarette vapor may suggest an impact on vascular integrity leading to future atherosclerosis,” better known as hardening of the arteries. Levels of EPCs returned to normal only 24 hours later.
A heart specialist and spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, Professor Joep Perk, said, “It really surprises me that so little vapor from an e-cigarette is needed to start the heart disease ball rolling. It’s worrying that one e-cigarette can trigger such a response.” The question remains if long-term use of e-cigarettes cause heart disease.
The Swedish team remarked that the average user takes 230 puffs a day, raising the prospect that prolonged use may cause serious damage. In August, a team at the University of Athens Medical School claimed that puffing on an e-cigarette for half an hour led to similar levels of stiffness in the main artery, the aorta, as smoking a tobacco cigarette. Both methods raised blood pressure, as well.
In addition, new research is increasing at a rapid pace. In November 2016, an American study found that teenagers who used e-cigarettes were 71 percent more likely to suffer from bronchitis. In early December, another study maintained just one puff contained up to 270 times the safe level of toxic chemicals called aldehydes.
A study in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine found e-cigarette users were 28 percent less likely to quit smoking tobacco than those who didn’t vape. This has caused perhaps, the most dispute. This revelation is significant as the vast majority of e-cigarette users are trying to quit tobacco. This creates a debate as e-cigarette advocates dismiss some of the studies as misleading, as some felt the conversation was ignoring ex-smokers who had given up tobacco thanks to the e-cigarette devices.
Those advocating getting smokers to switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes, now fear that their message is getting lost in a cloud of confusion. The fact is smoking claims the lives of 93,000 people in the United Kingdom every year, accounting for almost one in every five deaths. It allegedly “significantly increases the risk of killer diseases including cancer, heart disease, and a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder” (COPD), according to the Daily Mail.com/U.K.
Dr. Filippidis said, “Only time will tell who is right, but my personal opinion is that some more caution would be prudent until the evidence is more clear.”