Is Vaping Bad for You?

By Katharine Paljug @kpaljug
May 05, 2017

People who use e-cigarettes should be asking "is vaping bad for you?" Why? It has the same health risks as conventional tobacco products.

Heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the leading cause of death for both men and women, accounting for one out of every four deaths. Coronary heart disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease, and in the United States, someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds.

About one in every three Americans has one of the three main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Many smokers, however, believe that using e-cigarettes will protect them from the risks associated with smoking, but they should be asking "is vaping bad for you?" Research shows that electronic cigarettes and vaping can put you at risk for heart disease just like traditional cigarettes.

The study found that people who use e-cigarettes every day were more likely to show risk factors for heart disease than non-smokers.


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Safety concerns over e-cigarettes

In the past several years, vaping has become popular among teenaged smokers. More than 3 million teens used e-cigarettes in 2015, a number that, according to a report by the United States Surgeon General, has grown nearly 900 percent since 2011.

Young people aren’t the only ones turning to vaping. The CDC reports that the total number of adults who use electronic cigarettes rose from 3.3 percent in 2010 to 8.5 percent in 2013. Among current smokers, those numbers were even higher, rising from 9.8 percent to 36.5 percent.

This rise in use comes as the scientific community has begun to raise concerns about the e-cigarette side effects. One 2016 study found that e-cigarettes could cause oxidative stress in the body, while other research has found that they contain potential carcinogens.

In 2009 the Food and Drug Administration warned that many electronic cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals that users inhale every time they smoke, while a 2015 animal study found inhaling smoke from electronic cigarettes damaged the immune systems of mice. But until now, there has been little information on how vaping affects the heart.

Vaping and heart disease

The study, which was published in JAMA Cardiology, looked at habitual e-cigarette smokers between the ages of 21 and 45 who did not use conventional tobacco products and had no known health problems.

Researchers found that participants who smoked e-cigarettes had higher levels of adrenaline in the heart than non-smokers, a risk factor for forms of cardiovascular disease, including irregular heart rhythm and heart attacks. They also noted that participants who regularly vaped had higher levels of oxidative stress — cellular damage caused by free radicals — throughout their bodies. Oxidative stress can lead to high levels of blood fats, as well as a thickening of the walls of arteries known as arteriosclerosis.

High levels of adrenaline and oxidative stress are both risk factors for heart disease that are seen in smokers of conventional tobacco products.

Long-term effects of electronic cigarette use

The research is part of an ongoing debate over the safety of electronic cigarettes. Because e-cigarette use, or vaping, is relatively new, research into its long-term effects is limited, and the medical community sometimes shares contradictory messages on their use and safety.

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians of London released a report recommending that tobacco smokers turn to vaping to help them quit. However, the CDC does not recommend using e-cigarettes as a cessation tool, and in fact has stated that “The science thus far indicates most e-cigarette users in the United States continue to smoke conventional cigarettes."

This conflicting information leaves many smokers unaware of the potential dangers of vaping. According to the surgeon general’s report, just 23.6 percent of the middle and high school students surveyed agreed that e-cigarettes could cause “a lot of harm.”

But the surgeon general, and many other public officials, are already convinced of the dangers of e-cigarette use. “Many questions remain about e-cigarettes and their long-term impact, even as evidence on patterns of use and risks to health continue to emerge,” writes Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, in his report, which calls e-cigarette use a public health crisis. “But we know enough about these health risks to take action now.”

The CDC provides a variety of resources for anyone who needs help to quit smoking, including information on vaping and teenage smoking.


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April 01, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA