E-cigarettes: Safe for the Heart (But Are They Bad for the Lungs?)


After conducting an encouraging but admittedly limited study, researchers at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, Greece claim that electronic cigarettes do not pose a threat to the heart. The researchers measured the heart function of the tobacco smokers before and after smoking a tobacco cigarette and compared it to the heart function of the vapers before and after using an e-cig for 7 minutes.

The tobacco smokers’ heart functions dropped and their blood pressures and heart rates rose. By contrast, the vapers experienced nothing more than a slight increase in blood pressure.

Only 20 tobacco cigarette smokers and 22 e-cig vapers participated in the study so the results, announced earlier this month at the European Society of Cardiology’s Annual Congress, are not considered definitive. The researchers conceded that long-term studies will need to be conducted before the full impact of vaping is known. Still, the results were encouraging and the researchers say that vaping electronic cigarettes can be an effective way to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes.

So that’s good news.

A different group of Greek researchers, this time from the University of Athens, conducted a recent lung study¬†that was even smaller than the heart study, These researchers measured the effects of vaping on 8 nonsmokers and 24 tobacco cigarette smokers–11 had normal lung function and 13 had respiratory ailments like COPD and asthma.

Unlike the heart study, though, these researchers were focused solely on how e-cigs would affect the various participants; the effects of tobacco cigarettes were not part of the study.¬† At the same European Society of Cardiology conference, these researchers revealed that most of their study’s participants experienced an immediate increase in airway resistance that lasted about 10 minutes after vaping.

While that might sound worrisome, keep in mind that these studies were so small and were conducted over such a short period of time that the findings cannot be generalized to the overall e-cig community. Many more studies will need to be done, over longer periods of time and with more people participating as subjects, before we can draw any definite conclusions.

In the meantime, many researchers in the U.S. consider electronic cigarettes to be an effective smoking cessation aid. Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health, for example, note that e-cigs lead to abstinence rates that are nearly double those of traditional nicotine replacement methods like the patch.

We’re in a bit of a holding pattern regarding the long term effects of electronic cigarettes but it’s pretty much a given that they are safer than tobacco cigarettes.

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