Is Vaping Safe For High Blood Pressure? What Are The Health Risks?

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On December 15, 2019
Cigarettes Vs Vaping

Many people want to quit smoking. If you have thought about trying to kick a smoking habit, you’re not alone. Nearly 7 of 10 smokers say they want to stop. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health — smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, including your heart. Nearly one-third of deaths from heart disease are the result of smoking and secondhand smoke.

Research Study

A study from the University of Dundee, published in November 2019 and funded by the British Heart Foundation, suggests that vaping may be less harmful to your blood vessels than smoking cigarettes. Within just one month of switching tobacco for electronic cigarettes, measures of blood vessel health, including blood pressure and stiffness of their arteries, had started to improve. The study looked at 114 people who had smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day for at least two years. This is a relatively small number of people, and the study does not prove that vaping is completely safe.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study suggests that vaping may be less harmful to your blood vessels than smoking cigarettes. Within just one month of ditching tobacco for electronic cigarettes, people’s blood vessel health had started to recover.

Despite the some what positive results from this study, there are a host of other health risks involved.

Is Vaping Safe?

In early September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to the general public. In it, the government organization asked people to “consider not using e-cigarettes.” The US Food and Drug Administration released a similar warning, urging those who use vaping devices not to buy them “off the street” or to modify e-cigarettes or their intended substances.

The two announcements—which came from the two top national health agencies—weren’t unexpected; in the past two months, news outlets have been buzzing with new information on the latest health effects of vaping.

Currently, 26 deaths as a result of vaping-related illness have been confirmed in 21 different states, and 1,299 cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarettes have been reported across the US.

Vaping Causes Irreversible Lung Damage

In January 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine1 released a consensus study report that reviewed over 800 different studies.

That report made clear: using e-cigarettes causes health risks. It concluded that e-cigarettes both contain and emit a number of potentially toxic substances. The Academies’ report also states there is moderate evidence that youth who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk for cough and wheezing and an increase in asthma exacerbation.

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A study from the University of North Carolina found that the two primary ingredients found in e-cigarettes—propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—are toxic to cells and that the more ingredients in an e-liquid, the greater the toxicity.

  • E-cigarettes produce a number of dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde. These aldehydes can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular (heart) disease.
    E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. It can cause acute lung injury and COPD and may cause asthma and lung cancer.
  • Both the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have warned about the risks of inhaling secondhand e-cigarette emissions, which are created when an e-cigarette user exhales the chemical cocktail created by e-cigarettes.
  • In 2016, the Surgeon General concluded that secondhand emissions contain, “nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
  • The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. If smokers are ready to quit smoking for good, they should call 1-800-QUIT NOW or talk with their doctor about finding the best way to quit using proven methods and FDA-approved treatments and counseling.
Less Harmful Than Cigarettes?

“Just because e-cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco doesn’t mean they are completely safe. We know they contain significantly fewer of the harmful chemicals, which can cause diseases related to smoking, but we still don’t know the long-term impact on the heart and circulation, or other aspects of health. E-cigarettes and vaping should never be taken up by people who don’t already smoke, but could be a useful tool to help people to stop smoking completely.

“Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health. If you’re looking to quit smoking, don’t go it alone. There is a range of free support available, including local stop smoking services, which will help you to find the best way of quitting and boost your chances of success.”

Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Programme Lead at Public Health England, said: “People might be surprised at how much easier it is to quit with an electronic cigarette. Any smoker with a heart condition has almost certainly tried to quit in the past, and failed. Try again with an electronic cigarette because you might find that’s a lot easier. And further down the line, you might want to quit the e-cigarette as well.”

Mr Dockrell added: “We know that e-cigarettes are probably not completely safe, but that’s not the issue. The question is, are e-cigarettes safer than the alternative?… It’s really important that smokers understand how much safer e-cigarettes are, compared to smoking”.

Vaping Isn’t Dangerous, It’s Lethal

Several doctors shared the health risks associated with vaping, many of which are deadly. “Research has shown that nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids, and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant (according to the American Heart Association),” says Santiago. “Vapes also contain harmful substances such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.” Keep reading for more specific details on the dangers of vaping.

Heart attack and stroke:

“Recent data conclusively links increased heart attacks, strokes, and death with vaping and e-cigarettes,” said Nicole Weinberg, M.D., cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “Compared with non-users, vaping users were 56 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. Initially touted as being a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, we now see that they increase heart rate, blood pressure, and ultimately increase plaque rupture which causes these dangerous cardiovascular events.”

Stunted brain development:

Among many of the “avoidable” risks that vaping poses, the National Institute of Health shared that the use of vape pens and e-cigs can cause “long-term harm to brain development.” This is more specific to youth users but can affect learning and memory, self-control, concentration, attention, and mood.

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AFib (Atrial Fibrillation):

AFib is “a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications,” according to the American Heart Association. And though AFib is typically seen in older populations (65 and older), “with the continuing trend of vaping among teens and young adults, we may someday be looking at younger and younger populations of people (even high schoolers) being diagnosed with AFib unless we can stop this now,” said Lenane.

Lung disease:

“Vaping can cause acute lung injury, potentially chronic lung injury, and vascular disease as well,” said Dr. Bernicker. And if you’ve seen reports about popcorn lung, it’s rare but possible: “Flavors [including diacetyl] have been implicated in the development of popcorn lung disease,” says Chris Johnston, M.D., chief medical officer at Pinnacle Treatment Centers in New Jersey.

Popcorn lung is the nickname for the condition bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a condition that damages your lungs’ smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath The more likely result of vaping, when it comes to your lungs, is currently classified as “e-cigarette- or vaping-associated lung injury” and is both incurable and fatal; The CDC has been calling this EVALI.

The National Institutes of Health reported that “patients diagnosed with this illness have reported symptoms such as: cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, fatigue, fever, or weight loss.” The CDC reports that “no specific test or marker exists for its diagnosis,” but most clinical assessment looks for lung inflammation and elevated white cell count.

Continued vaping when you’ve been diagnosed with vaping-associated lung injury can result in death. Your compromised lung health can also leave you susceptible to pneumonia, which can also be deadly.

Addiction:

“Addiction is the most serious long-term side effect,” says Dr. Johnston. “The earlier in life someone is exposed to an addictive inhaled drug, the greater the chance of being diagnosed with a substance use disorder later in life.” (See: How to Quit Juul, and Why It’s So Damn Hard)

Dental disease:

Orthodontist Heather Kunen, D.D.S., M.S., co-founder of Beam Street has seen an uptick in nicotine-related problems in her young patients. “As a dentist who caters mostly to the young-adult patient, I’ve become acutely aware of the popularity of the vaping trend and its consequences on oral health,” says Kunen. “I find that my patients who vape suffer from a higher incidence of dry mouth, cavities, and even periodontal disease. I warn my patients that while vaping seems somewhat innocuous and a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, this is not at all the case. The extremely high concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes has significant mal-effects on oral health that should not be ignored.”

Cancer:

Similar to traditional cigarettes, e-cigs can potentially lead to cancer, says Dr. Bernicker. “We do not have enough information to fully gauge cancer risks yet, but data from mice is starting to become available,” he says. “Use of cigarettes and other nicotine products remains the leading cause of lung cancer. As an oncologist, I strongly encourage people that are currently vaping to reconsider for the benefit of their health.”

Death:

Yes, you can die from vaping-related illness, and there have been nearly 40 reported instances so far. If it’s not from the aforementioned lung diseases, it can be from cancer, stroke, heart failure, or another heart-related event. “Short-term damage from vaping includes respiratory failure and death,” said Dr. Johnston.

Conclusion:

We know that cigarette smoking is dangerous for your health. I do not think anyone would argue that fact. But upon researching vaping it would seem that vaping is not a safe approach to quitting smoking. In fact I would suggest that it is not an option. If you want to quit smoking contact your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to best advise you how to do so safely.

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