Vaping is healthier than smoking, right? That’s the argument that many former smokers who have turned to electronic cigarettes -- commonly referred to as e-cigarettes or e-cigs -- swear by.
And granted, it is true that e-cigarettes do not contain or produce the same toxic chemical mix as actual cigarettes, but the latest research on the topic is shedding more light on the health dangers associated with vaping.
A recent study has found that using e-cigarettes increases the likelihood of suffering a stroke or heart attack. In a nutshell: Vaping is not risk-free, and it is certainly not a harmless habit when it comes to your heart health.
Up in Smoke
Results of the study were presented at the American Stroke Association’s 2019 International Stroke Conference in Hawaii. The numbers are eye-opening, to say the least, with stroke risk for e-cigarette users cited at 71 percent when compared to non e-cig users, and angina (chest pain) or heart attack at 40 and 59 percent higher when compared to rates for nonusers.
Researchers, however, are unsure if e-cigarettes contribute directly to risk of stroke, angina, or heart attack, or if the damage associated with increased risk was already there. Long-term studies, they say, are necessary.
The research team evaluated a database including responses from 400,000 participants from the 2016 behavioral risk factor surveillance system study. In that study, 66,789 respondents reported that they used e-cigarettes on a regular basis, while 343,856 reported never having tried them.
Researchers took into account that many current e-cigarette users are also former smokers, thereby further analyzing the data to remove the dangerous effects of smoking conventional cigarettes. The findings still serve as a wakeup call with a 29 percent increased risk of stroke and a 25 percent increased risk of suffering a heart attack for e-cigarette users who have never smoked conventional cigarettes. The same group also demonstrated an 18 percent risk of angina or coronary heart disease.
E-Cigs and Quitting Smoking
But what about those who are depending on e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking? The risks associated with smoking conventional cigarettes are obviously higher than they are with e-cig usage, however, the American Heart Association has stood by its 2014 statement which says e-cigarettes should only be used as a last resort for smokers attempting to quit who have not found success with other smoking cessation methods, which include the nicotine patch, behavioral support, and getting support from your doctor.
The Less (But Still) Evil Alternative
When compared to conventional cigarettes, e-cigs may certainly be the lesser of the two evils, and are heralded by the vaping community as life-changing in that nothing else was able to help them stop lighting up. That doesn’t mean they are a safe option to rely on long-term, though.
E-cigs typically contain nicotine, toxic chemicals such as ethanol glycol, formaldehyde, and heavy metals, and flavorings. With very little research on the devices in the 12 years since their inception, researchers suggest that those who have never used an e-cigarette not to start.