People who vape can experience “worrisome” changes in their blood pressure and heart rate immediately afterwards, research from the US has suggested.
The University of Wisconsin study assessed the impact of using e-cigarettes among regular users, those who smoked traditional cigarettes, and others who consumed no nicotine.
They took measurements of heart rate and blood pressure before and then up to 15 minutes after the almost 400 participants either vaped or smoked. Participants were also put through an exercise stress test after 90 minutes.
People who vaped or smoked were found to experience greater increases in both heart rate and blood pressure, whereas those who reported no nicotine use saw no changes.
Regular users of nicotine also experienced worse measures of heart rate variability and a constricted brachial artery, or the artery that supplies blood to the arms and hands.
“These findings suggest worse cardiovascular disease risk factors right after vaping or smoking,” said lead study author Matthew C Tattersall, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Vaping and smoking
Those who smoked or vaped performed significantly worse across all metrics, including how quickly their heart rate recovered after exercise and how hard their heart had to work at peak levels. This was found to be the case even after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity.
Lead author Christina M Hughey, a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at the university, added: “The exercise performance of those who vaped was not significantly different than people who used combustible cigarettes, even though they had vaped for fewer years than the people who smoked and were much younger.”
The study surveyed 164 people who had used e-cigarettes for an average of four years, 117 who had used traditional cigarettes for an average of 23 years, and 114 people who had never smoked or vaped.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, and potentially casts doubt on assumptions that vaping is significantly safer than smoking.
The NHS, for example, argues that vaping “poses a small fraction of the risk of smoking”, although it does also concede that it “is not completely risk-free”.
James H Stein, director of preventive cardiology at UW Health and the Robert Turrell Professor in Cardiovascular Research at the university, emphasised that the research did not study the long-term effects of vaping, use of vaping as a smoking cessation aid or the effectiveness or safety of vaping in that context.
“However, these findings are concerning because they indicate vaping may increase cardiovascular risk. The message for people who smoke combustible cigarettes is the same as always – try to quit using tobacco and nicotine products and seek support from your physician and community to increase your chances of success,” he added.