E-cigarettes may be just as dangerous as traditional tar-filled cigarettes, the leading medical organization for heart disease says.
The influential American Heart Association has warned that vape devices contain a cocktail of nicotine, thickeners, solvents and flavors that pose the same serious risks to cardiovascular health, including raising blood pressure levels, as smoking cigarettes.
The AHA’s policy to discourage the use of e-cigarettes, once considered an effective smoking cessation product, is the strongest to come from an influential medical association in years.
The organization’s position is supported by growing evidence pointing to heart and lung damage, science that informed similar policies of the American Medical Association and the American Lung Association in 2019.
E-cigarettes with high concentrations of nicotine contain other compounds that have been shown in lab studies to increase heart disease and lung disease in animals. And more research is needed on their long-term effects, especially since more than 2.5 million young people currently use vapes.
The American Heart Association’s call for more research into the long-term effects of vaping was part of an overall advice to stay away from the devices, which comes nearly four years after the American Medical Association issued the warning.
Dr Rose Marie Robertson, AHA’s deputy chief science and medical officer, said: ‘E-cigarette companies have suggested that their products are a way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. There is no strong evidence to support this beyond short-term benefits.
‘Lack of long-term scientific safety data on e-cigarette use, including the potential for addiction to e-cigarette products seen in youth, the American Heart Association does not recommend e-cigarette use for cessation efforts. .’
For people interested in quitting nicotine in any form, the AHA recommends that people use an FDA-approved method such as nicotine replacement gum or patches that stay on the skin for up to 24 hours.
Dr Robertson added: ‘And all this needs to be done with the understanding that quitting often takes a lot of effort, and any failure should be seen as a learning curve on the way to eventually beating a strong addiction for good.’
More research is needed on the long-term effects on the heart, lungs and blood vessels, and more research is needed on people who smoke traditional cigarettes with e-cigarettes – so-called dual users – compared to e-cigarette users. and non-smoker.
E-cigarettes took off in the US in the early 2010s, and millions of people bought them on the manufacturers’ argument that the products were a safer way to get a nicotine fix than smoking cigarettes.
Dr Jason Rose, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chair of the AHA’s scientific statement writing committee, said: ‘Because e-cigarettes and other vaping systems have been in the US for almost 15 years, we still haven’t got There is insufficient information about their long-term health effects, so we must rely on short-term studies, molecular tests and animal studies to try to assess the true risks of e-cigarette use.’
But while the devices produce intense smoke and tar-free vapor, the AHA’s heart and lung health experts say they still know little about the effects of years of using vape devices. Already, doctors on the ground have seen massive health damage in the form of acute lung injury in 2019.
Dr Rose said: ‘E-cigarettes deliver many substances into the body that are potentially harmful, including chemicals and other compounds that may not be known or understood by the user.
‘The long-term risks of e-cigarette use are unknown, but we may not observe them for decades if the risks of chronic use are similar to those of combustible cigarettes, or if the risks are reduced but still present.
‘What is equally concerning is that studies have shown that some young people who use e-cigarettes use other tobacco products and that there is an association between e-cigarette use and substance use disorders.’
Lung injury outbreaks accounted for more than 2,800 hospitalizations in 2019. Fifteen percent were under-18s.
This prompted a stern warning from the highly influential American Medical Association against the use of e-cigarettes, as well as calls for an all-out ban on products not approved as smoking cessation aids (at the time, there were no FDA-approved devices).
In addition to containing high concentrations of the addictive chemical nicotine, often as high as five percent, e-cigarettes contain dangerous additives, including flavoring agents, glycerol and metals that leach into the liquid when the battery heats up.
Long-term exposure to diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, two flavor additives, has been linked to shortness of breath, chronic cough, asthma and airway obstruction.
For example, the statement’s authors cited evidence that exposing the cells that line the airways and lungs to aerosols produced by eight different types of flavored joule pods increased inflammation, damaged the cells’ DNA, and impaired the lung’s protective function. barrier
Another common ingredient in e-cigarettes under scrutiny is glycerol, a vehicle for flavor and the compound that creates the tickle in the back of the throat that many smokers look for when looking for a non-cigarette alternative.
More than 2.5 million U.S. children use e-cigarettes — up half a million from last year and reversing a downward trend in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 2.55 million Americans in middle or high school admitted to using a device in the past 30 days. That’s a jump of 500,000, or 24 percent, from 2021. This is the first increase since the CDC began collecting annual data in 2019.
The legal purchase age for e-cigarettes has been raised from 18 to 21, although not all sellers ask customers for age verification.
AHA experts wrote: ‘Glycol mixtures are used to produce theater fogs and fumes, and long-term occupational exposure is associated with high reports of respiratory distress and chest tightness.
‘Short-term exposure to glycol mixtures has been associated with severe dry cough and throat irritation, as well as decreased lung function in individuals with higher exposures.’
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a startling fact – that more than 2.5 million American youth are hooked on nicotine in e-cigarette devices.
Dual use of e-cigs and traditional cigarettes increases the risk
– E-cigarettes and traditional combustible cigarettes can cause inflammation and heart problems of their own
– If used simultaneously, health effects may worsen
– Long-term use of both damages blood vessels, although each has some adverse effects that the other does not, suggesting that dual use of the products compounds the damage.
– The blood of e-cig users is more permeable to blood vessel cells than the blood of both tobacco users and non-users, which increases the risk of cell damage and heart disease.
– Tobacco smokers had higher blood levels of specific circulating biomarkers of cardiovascular risk.
– The lead author of the study said that using both products together ‘may increase their health risk compared to using them separately’
Manufacturers and retailers have signaled their willingness to release products that lure young people, even those who would not otherwise consume nicotine products, to the ire of medical experts and parents.
The rate at which American high school students regularly use e-cigarettes increased by 25 percent from 2021 to 2022, driven largely by disposable devices like the mega-popular Elf Bar.
Juul also appeared to mimic the advertising tropes used with great success by tobacco companies, an example of art taking a page out of the latter’s playbook.
It took decades of pressure and research from the medical and research community to hold the tobacco industry accountable for falsely asserting that their products were non-addictive.
The US Surgeon General first warned of a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer in 1964, but attitudes began to change in the late 80s and 90s when people began to become seriously ill years after smoking.
Industry heavy hitters like Juul have now launched a similar campaign for e-cigarettes as enemy number one for helping nearly 2.6 million American teenagers get hooked on nicotine.
Now, focused around the idea that more should be done to regulate access to cigarettes and the companies that make them should do more, influential groups like the AHA and AMA control who can buy them, use them, and where. It called for stricter regulations
There was a brief period where e-cigarettes were accepted in indoor public places, even hospitals, a concept that may seem foreign but at second glance may not be, as smoking was only banned in bars and restaurants about 20 years ago. .