As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow, a US scientist is claiming that the prolonged exposure to nicotine could increase the risk of developing a fatal heart condition.
New research studies
Experiments using both rat and human vascular smooth muscle cells have shown how nicotine stimulates the formation of “rosettes” on the outer surface of those cells. These structures penetrate the protective outer layer of tissue that safeguards the vascular cells of the heart resulting in atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis has been described as “cancer of the blood vessels” leading to the build-up of plaque, clogged arteries and the danger of subsequent heart attack and stroke. Worryingly, this process occurs during the administration of nicotine in any form, not just through cigarette smoke.
The scientists behind the study concede that substituting cigarettes with some other form of nicotine will be beneficial in that the user will no longer be at risk from the harmful effects of the whole gamut of chemicals contained in cigarette smoke, but data does suggest that long-term e-cigarette use does increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
“Scaremongering” say e-cigarette supporters
The pro-e-cig advocates disagree. The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) argues that although it is proven that cigarette smoke causes heart disease, the science behind the allegation that nicotine consumption alone is responsible for such disease is nothing more than unfounded scaremongering.
The CASAA highlights other research which shows that smokers using nicotine replacement therapy following a stroke or heart attack were at no more risk of suffering a second acute incident within 12 months than those who were not. A Swedish study showed that men who chewed tobacco were at no greater risk of heart attack than those who did not. It also appears that the nicotine substitute study involved administering nicotine levels that were 10 times higher than would be inhaled by an average cigarette smoker.
Tobacco industry fuelling doubts on e-cig safety?
Vapers (as users of e-cigs are known) are bemused by the fuss and find it all rather frustrating. The flavoured liquid contained in most e-cigarettes includes nicotine, propylene glycol and various flavourings but does not carry the harmful toxins contained in cigarette smoke. Millions of smokers worldwide have successfully turned to e-cigs to help them quit the tobacco habit and are becoming tired of what they perceive to be attempts to frighten them into giving up their new found “healthier” fix.
It has even been alleged that the multi-billion dollar tobacco industry may be behind some of the studies which seem designed to put people off using e-cigs and other nicotine substitutes and that much of this research is driven by their fear of profit shrinkage, rather than concerns for the health of the smokers who fund it.