Even after puffing on just one electronic cigarette with nicotine, healthy non-smokers were found to have a biological marker known to increase the risk of heart disease in tobacco users, according to a new study. The research, published in Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that nicotine is not harmless, as many people believe. It can affect a smoker’s health in more than one way, and not just by triggering addiction.
“There is this old saying that people smoke for the nicotine, cause it’s so addictive, but they die from the tar,” says study co-author Holly Middlekauff, a cardiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. This belief that nicotine is generally safe led to nicotine-replacement therapies in the 1970s — like nicotine patches and gums — to help people quit. Today, electronic cigarettes have become popular with people addicted to cigarettes, who view vaping as less harmful than smoking.
The use of e-cigarettes, however, is fairly new, so its long-term effects are still unknown. And the scientific community has been divided about e-cig safety. Last year, a prestigious medical group in the UK recommended that tobacco smokers switch to e-cigs to quit, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there’s no evidence that e-cigs work as a smoking cessation tool. Meanwhile, the body of research on health risk is slowly growing: a 2015 study found that e-cig vapor damages the immune system of mice. Last year, a study found that e-cigs produce 31 harmful chemicals, including some that are believed to cause cancer.
Another study, conducted by Middlekauff that was published earlier this year, showed that people who use e-cigs almost every day have biological markers known to increase the risk of heart disease in tobacco users. These included an increase in adrenaline levels in the heart, which can predispose smokers to bad heart rhythms, heart attacks, and sudden death, as well as increased oxidative…