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Study Reveals Risks of E-Cigarette Use on Vascular Health

— March 26, 2024

As e-cigarette sales surge, experts warn of potentially life-threatening health complications.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) sheds light on the potential risks associated with regular electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use, particularly concerning vascular dysfunction. The study, published in the journal Angiogenesis, highlights concerns about the long-term impact of e-cigarettes on cardiovascular health.

The research, led by Tijana Simovic, a Ph.D. student at VCU, and co-authored by Chloe Matheson, examined the vascular function of healthy adults aged 21 to 31 who were regular users of e-cigarettes. The study compared their vascular function with that of nonusers in the same age group. The findings revealed that frequent users of e-cigarettes exhibited signs of premature vascular dysfunction, indicating potential risks to cardiovascular health.

During the assessment, researchers examined the functionality of both small and larger blood vessels. Their findings revealed that individuals who had been using e-cigarettes for over three years exhibited more pronounced damage across different types of blood vessels. Alterations in blood vessel function and structure serve as early signs of heightened risk for cardiovascular disease, underscoring the necessity of comprehending the potential health ramifications associated with e-cigarette usage.

Smoking is a well-known contributor to cardiovascular disease, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributing 1 in 4 deaths related to heart and vascular damage to smoking. The study’s findings raise concerns about the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes among young adults, with 11% of adults aged 18 to 24 reportedly using e-cigarettes, according to research published by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Study Reveals Risks of E-Cigarette Use on Vascular Health
Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya from Pexels

In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the use of e-cigarettes, evident from a reported increase of over 46% in e-cigarette unit sales between January 2020 and December 2022, as per the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Although initially viewed as a safer option compared to conventional tobacco items, e-cigarettes have now attracted attention due to concerns about their potential negative impact on vascular health.

Paula Rodriguez-Miguelez, who holds a Ph.D. and serves as a professor in VCU’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, highlighted the importance of the study’s discoveries, especially in detecting initial indications of dysfunction in young individuals who appear healthy. The research underscores the necessity for additional investigation to ascertain if the identified vascular dysfunction linked to e-cigarette usage is reversible.

The scientific community’s awareness of the harmful cardiovascular effects of traditional cigarettes evolved over decades, prompting concerns about a similar trajectory with e-cigarettes. Rodriguez-Miguelez emphasized the importance of not waiting for decades to understand the potential impact of e-cigarettes on heart and blood vessel health, urging proactive measures to address current health concerns associated with e-cigarette usage.

The study’s findings highlight the urgency of addressing the potential health risks associated with e-cigarette use, especially among young adults who are among the most prolific users of these products. As e-cigarettes continue to gain popularity, particularly among youth and young adults, there is a pressing need for comprehensive public health interventions aimed at raising awareness about the potential risks and promoting informed decision-making regarding tobacco product use.

Furthermore, regulatory measures and policies must be implemented to restrict youth access to e-cigarettes and limit their availability, thereby mitigating the growing public health concerns surrounding their use.

As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow, it becomes increasingly imperative to prioritize research and public health initiatives aimed at understanding and mitigating the potential risks associated with their use. The study’s findings serve as a critical reminder of the importance of monitoring and addressing emerging health threats to safeguard cardiovascular health in young adults.


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Early Signs of Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Adolescents with Newly Diagnosed Essential Hypertension

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