Proper Heart Science

Posted 18th November 2019 by Dave Cross
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) raises money to fund research into cures and treatments, “so we can beat heartbreak forever.” The BHF funded a team from the University of Dundee to investigate “the early vascular impact of switching from [cigarettes] to [vaping] in chronic smokers.”

“Blood vessel health improves within one month,” new BHF-funded research has shown, when heavy smokers switch to e-cigarettes. The VESUVIUS study is thought to be the largest to date investigating the impact of swapping from smoking to vaping on the heart and circulation and was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study demonstrated that the benefits are there regardless of whether someone used nicotine, and that women saw greater gains from swapping. Chief Investigator Professor Jacob George said: “It is crucial to emphasise that e-cigarettes are not safe, just less harmful than traditional cigarettes when it comes to vascular health. Smoking of any kind is a preventable risk factor for heart disease.”

“They should not be seen as harmless devices for non-smokers to try. However, for chronic tobacco smokers there were significant improvements in vascular function within a month of switching from a tobacco cigarette to an e-cigarette."

Unlike the flawed data manipulation conducted by Stanton Glantz, this research recruited 114 real long-term cigarette smokers who had smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day for at least 2 years. The authors write: “Participants were allocated to one of three groups for one month: those who continued smoking tobacco cigarettes, those who switched to e-cigarettes with nicotine and those who switched to e-cigarettes without nicotine. Participants had their blood vessel health tested at the beginning of the trial and after one month, and were monitored throughout the test period.”

"We now have clear evidence they're less harmful than tobacco cigarettes” - Professor Jacob George

Professor George continued: “This study suggests that vaping may be less harmful to your blood vessels than smoking cigarettes. Within just one month of ditching tobacco for electronic cigarettes people’s blood vessel health had started to recover.”

 “Just because e-cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco doesn’t mean they are completely safe. We know they contain significantly fewer of the harmful chemicals, which can cause diseases related to smoking, but we still don’t know the long term impact on the heart and circulation, or other aspects of health. E-cigarettes and vaping should never be taken up by people who don’t already smoke, but could be a useful tool to help people to stop smoking completely.”

Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London, said: “There has been a stream of scares concerning cardiovascular effects of vaping. These were typically based on pouring e-liquid on cells in petri dishes, poisoning mice with huge doses of chemicals that have no relationship to human vaping, or misinterpreting acute stimulant effects of vaping that are similar to effects from drinking coffee as a health risk.

Finally, here is a randomised study in humans that provides some relevant data. Smokers who switch to vaping experience significant cardiovascular benefits – or to put this more accurately, avoid the cardiovascular risks of smoking. Importantly, the benefits are the same for nicotine and for nicotine-free e-cigarettes.

Switching to vaping removes practically all further cancer risks from continuing smoking, but due to the wave of misinformation, some smokers may have been put off switching to vaping thinking that this does not reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. This study is important in correcting this and hopefully encouraging more smokers who cannot or do not want to stop using nicotine to switch to the much less risky alternative.”

“This is what responsible communication looks like, Professor Glantz and American Heart Association” - Dr. Moira Gilchrist

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Senior researcher in Health Behaviours and Managing Editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, University of Oxford, commented: “This is an important and well-conducted study which shows improvements in vascular health a month after switching from smoking to vaping. Importantly, these improvements were seen regardless of whether people were vaping electronic cigarettes with nicotine or electronic cigarettes without nicotine.

Though recently we’ve seen many stories about how electronic cigarettes and nicotine might worsen heart health, those studies focus on very short-term data, and many of them are not conducted in people. This study should provide reassurance as it has studied more people and followed them up for longer than many of the recently reported studies. Its results are in line with statements from numerous public health and medical bodies who agree that vaping is considerably safer than smoking. Vaping is not risk free, and non-smokers should not start. However, people who smoke should consider switching.”

Professor John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, University of Nottingham, added: “This randomised trial provides clear evidence of a reduction in a marker of cardiovascular disease risk in people who switch from smoking to vaping, and that the reduction is similar irrespective of whether nicotine was used in the electronic cigarette. The outcome is an indirect marker but the finding of the study, that vaping is less harmful than smoking, is intuitively correct on the grounds of the lower range and levels of emissions known to be present in vapour relative to tobacco smoke.

The finding contradicts the findings of observational studies that find that people who vape are at higher risk of heart disease, because those studies are inevitably and irreversibly confounded by former smoking. This study is a major breakthrough and one from which vapers can take reassurance that substituting smoking with vaping is likely to generate significant health benefits.”

Related:

  • “Cardiovascular Effects of Switching From Tobacco Cigarettes to Electronic Cigarettes” by Jacob George et al. – [link]
  • BHF on vaping – [link]


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker