Nicotine vapour damages blood vessels and raises risk of disease

  • Researchers: E-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise’
  • Study found using either e-cigs or regular tobacco led to similar levels of stiffness in the main artery and/or raised blood pressure

 Using electronic cigarettes could be as bad for the heart as smoking tobacco, research suggests.

Scientists found inhaling nicotine vapour damages key blood vessels, raising the risk of heart disease.

The team monitored participants’ hearts while smoking a conventional cigarette for five minutes and using an e-cigarette for half an hour, which they said was the most accurate comparison of typical use.

A trial of healthy men and women, with an average age of 30, found e-cigarettes are ¿far more dangerous than people realise

A trial of healthy men and women, with an average age of 30, found e-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise

They found the two activities led to similar levels of stiffness in the aorta, the main artery, which is a major cause of heart problems. Both also raised blood pressure.

The Greek scientists stressed this only revealed short-term damage, and more research is needed into long-term effects.

But they said their trial of 24 healthy men and women, with an average age of 30, shows e-cigarettes are ‘far more dangerous than people realise’.

Their concerns were echoed last night by the British Heart Foundation, which said the devices ‘could not be assumed to be risk-free’. The charity called for more research into the safety of long-term use.

The results, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Rome, will fuel the fierce debate about e-cigarettes.

Most experts agree they are less harmful than smoking tobacco but some are concerned they are still a risk to health.

The World Health Organisation warns they may also be toxic to bystanders.

Scientists found inhaling nicotine vapour damages key blood vessels, raising the risk of heart disease

Scientists found inhaling nicotine vapour damages key blood vessels, raising the risk of heart disease

But Public Health England last year encouraged smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, saying they were ‘95 per cent safe’.

The claim was widely criticised when it emerged it came from scientists funded by the e-cigarette industry.

Study leader Professor Charalambos Vlachopoulos, of the University of Athens Medical School, said the UK had ‘rushed into’ its promotion of e-cigarettes, adding: ‘E-cigarettes are less harmful but they are not harmless. I wouldn’t recommend them now as a method to give up smoking.’

The devices, which contain liquid nicotine that is heated into a vapour and inhaled, avoid the harm caused by tobacco smoke.

But Professor Vlachopoulos said nicotine is the most likely cause of damage to arteries. He is planning another trial using e-cigarettes without nicotine.

Public Health England last night continued to back the devices. A spokesman said: ‘Vaping carries a fraction of the risk of smoking yet many smokers are still not aware.’

Deborah Arnott, of campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, said the study showed if vaping was limited to five minutes too it caused much less damage than tobacco.

The e-cigarette industry’s trade body also played down the research, claiming aortic stiffness is ‘transitory’ and a ‘very poor measure’ of long-term risk.