A new study about electronic cigarettes was presented during the annual congress of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EUROECHO 2013, Istanbul, Turkey). The study evaluated the effects of electronic cigarettes on aortic elasticity, compared with the respective effects of tobacco cigarettes.
Blood vessels need to be elastic in order to properly deliver blood from the heart to the vital organs. It is well-known that one of the main adverse effects of smoking is acute stiffening of the blood vessels. Aorta, the central artery which delivers blood from the heart to every part of the human body, is particularly affected by smoking. Until now, the effects of electronic cigarette use were unknown.
Researchers from Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece, led by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, recruited 108 healthy subjects (51 smokers and 57 electronic cigarette users). All participants were evaluated at baseline, after smoking and vaping abstinence for 8 hours. Smokers were asked to smoke 2 tobacco cigarettes and use an 18mg/ml nicotine-containing electronic cigarette for 10 minutes on 2 separate days; electronic cigarette users were evaluated after 10 minutes of electronic cigarette use. Subjects were evaluated 20 minutes after use, by echocardiographic measurement of 3 elasticity parameters of the aorta.
Smoking 2 tobacco cigarettes caused significant stiffening of the aorta; all measured parameters showed a 17-22% worsening of elastic properties. On the contrary, both in smokers and electronic cigarette users, no difference was observed after electronic cigarette use. The results are important because aortic elasticity is a significant predictor of future cardiovascular events. However, no difference was observed at baseline, indicating that a substantial period of smoking abstinence is required before any beneficial effects in aortic elasticity are observed (vapers in this study were smoke-free for 10 months).
This study adds to currently available evidence which universally supports that electronic cigarettes are significantly less harmful compared to smoking. More studies on longer-duration vapers are needed in order to detect any objectively-measured chronic beneficial effect of switching from tobacco to electronic cigarette use on the elastic properties of the aorta.