Does Vaping Cause Increased Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke?
Vaping may not be the harmless substitute for smoking everyone once believed. According to preliminary findings from the American Stroke Association, using e-cigarettes increases your odds of having a stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart disease.1 With vaping statistics on the rise in the US, is your health at risk?
What is vaping?
An electronic alternative to smoking cigarettes, vaping works by heating a liquid inside the chamber of a handheld, battery-operated device, such as a vape pen.
Known as ‘electronic nicotine delivery systems’, these e-cigarettes or ‘e-cigs’ heat up at the press of a button to high temperatures causing the liquid to vaporize, hence the name ‘vaping’. The user inhales the vapour to get a similar experience to smoking cigarettes.
E-liquid is usually a concoction of nicotine in a solvent of carriers like glycerol, propylene and/or ethylene glycol, with added artificial flavors. The combination of e-liquid and heat produces an aerosol full of deadly chemicals like formaldehyde, and other substances like heavy metals and lead.2
Vaping stats in the U.S.
There are more than 460 brands selling a variety of 7,700 flavors of vaping juice. Since its inception in 2007, the e-cigarette has risen in popularity, particularly among teenagers and young adults.3 In this group, vaping increased by 900% between 2011 and 2015.
- In 2016, 10.8 million American (or 1 in 20) adults use e-cigarettes
- 51.2% of users are under 35 years old
- 11.3% of users were high school students
- 5.9% of males vape
- 3.7% of females vape
1 in 3 e-cigarette users vape every day4
Vaping vs. smoking cigarettes
Many people switch to e-cigarettes when they’re trying to quit smoking. But vaping and smoking can be equally addictive due to the nicotine, and they come with similar health risks:
- E-cigarettes use heat to create vapour, cigarettes use direct flame to create smoke
- Inhaling nicotine is harmful in any form
- Cigarettes and e-juices contain many other harmful substances
- Vaping increases exposure to formaldehyde 5 to 15 times greater than cigarettes
We know secondhand smoke is bad, but what about secondhand vape? Because it smells so fruity, vaping has become more socially acceptable. It’s not uncommon to see people smoking indoors and around children. But similar to secondhand smoke, vaping releases toxins into the air when exhaled and exposes bystanders to an increased risk of disease. It is considered just as dangerous as secondhand smoke, and vaping indoors will soon be banned by the World Health Organization.
What does the research say about vaping and the risk of heart disease and stroke?
Based on data from 400,000 participants in a 2016 survey on risky behaviors across 50 different States, 66,795 respondents said they vaped regularly. Compared to the control group of 343,856 people who had never used e-cigarettes, those who vaped had:
- 71% higher risk of stroke;
- 59% higher risk of heart attack or angina;
- 40% higher risk of coronary heart disease; and
- Double the rate of cigarette smoking.
In addition, 4.2% of users were stroke survivors.
Limitations of the research study
This research is preliminary and is yet to be reviewed by peers and experts; it has its limitations. For example, vape users were more likely to also smoke cigarettes and have a history of smoking, thereby being at a greater risk of stroke, heart attack and coronary heart disease. Also, the research shows an association to vaping and heart disease but does not prove causation. Further longitudinal studies are needed to reveal just how detrimental vaping is to overall health. However, the American Heart Association cautions against the use of e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, check with your doctor for recommended smoking cessation aids.
- American Heart Association; January 30, 2019
- University Health News; Feb 5, 2019
- American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session
- Annals of Internal Medicine; October 2, 2018
- Blog Contributor