Are e-cigarettes more harmful than previously thought?
A large selection of flavors that enhance the taste experience when using so-called e-cigarettes can damage the cardiovascular system. Researchers have now found that multiple flavors of e-cigarettes directly damage blood vessels.
In their latest study, researchers at Boston University found that flavorings for e-cigarettes can directly damage blood vessels, causing damage to the cardiovascular system. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology".
Experts examine endothelial cells
Boston University researchers conducted a number of experiments to find out whether different flavors of e-cigarettes harm the cardiovascular system. First, they examined so-called endothelial cells (these cells form the lining of blood vessels) from two groups of traditional tobacco smokers. One group regularly smoked menthol-flavored cigarettes, the other group smoked non-flavored cigarettes, the experts explain. These cells were then compared to cells taken from voluntary non-smokers.
Smoker cells do not perform their key function so well
The cells of both types of smokers were less able to perform an important key function. This was the production of nitric oxide, a colorless gas that dilates the blood vessels. The same thing happened to non-smokers who were directly exposed to menthol and eugenol (this chemical was used to create a clove oil taste). These results enabled the researchers to create a baseline that could be used to compare flavors commonly used in e-cigarettes.
Cultured cells were exposed to nine flavors
Next, the researchers exposed laboratory-grown endothelial cells for 90 minutes each at different levels of nine flavor additives, including menthol, vanillin (vanilla), and cinnamon aldehyde (cinnamon). These substances were heated to the same temperatures that an e-cigarette would produce, thus becoming an inhalable aerosol.
Five flavors can lead to inflammation
At the highest levels of exposure that are unlikely to occur during typical e-cigarette use, the ingredients have caused the cells to die immediately, the researchers explain. But even at a lower level, the doctors found that five flavors (the three substances mentioned above together with eugenol and acetylpyridine) in these cells can cause impaired production of nitric acid and inflammation.
Flavorings cause cardiovascular system diseases
The study's results suggest that the flavorings used in e-cigarettes, alone or in conjunction with other combustion products or components, can cause cardiovascular disease, says study author Professor Jessica Fetterman of Boston University. This could have serious consequences, as flavored tobacco products are the most commonly used products, especially in adolescents, the expert adds. The current study is not the first study to determine that flavored e-cigarettes can damage our circulation (or our lungs). However, the current study provided the most direct evidence of these harmful effects so far, the experts explain.
Which concentrations of the aroma substances get into the body?
However, it is not yet known what concentrations of the aroma substances get into the body when tobacco products are used, says Professor Fetterman. Lower levels of menthol were comparable to the levels achieved by smoking a pack of menthol cigarettes in one day. However, it is unknown how many of the other flavoring additives get into the blood after using an e-cigarette. A method is needed to test the effect of flavoring additives immediately after vaporizing. Further studies on this topic are already underway, say the scientists.
Are e-cigarettes healthier than normal cigarettes?
Some researchers and public health experts have already looked at using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. These experts claim that using e-cigarettes is much better than smoking real cigarettes, even though using e-cigarettes isn't really harmless. Other medical professionals argue that e-cigarettes could potentially be an easy way to start smoking cigarettes.
More research is needed
There are few studies on the health effects of vaporization. Many of the long-term health effects are still unknown. It is therefore premature to say that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking, explains study author Prof. Fetterman. It is known that some ingredients in cigarettes that are related to heart disease also occur in e-cigarettes. Cigarettes cause most of the heart disease risk in smokers, even if e-cigarettes contain lower amounts of toxic substances, they can still pose a similar risk for heart disease, the scientists add. Further investigations are now necessary to clarify these questions. (as)