Some of the largest publications in the United Kingdom are using a comment made at the world’s largest cardiology conference as justification for claiming that electronic cigarettes are just as bad for your heart as tobacco cigarettes.
While speaking at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Rome (August 27 – August 31), Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, commented on a study that shows electronic cigarettes “have a similar effect to normal cigarettes on the stiffness of the main blood vessel in the body – the aorta artery.” He added that this important discovery “shows that electronic cigarettes cannot be assumed to be risk free.” I couldn’t agree more, and I’m sure that there isn’t an informed vaper or unbiased e-cigarette supporter out there who can claim that there are absolutely no risks associated with vaping. Just as I’m sure that no one can claim that they are just as bad e-cigarettes, at least not while taking in consideration the scientific evidence we have so far.
But apparently that doesn’t include newspapers like The Sun, The Mirror, Yahoo UK or The Telegraph, all of which seem more than eager to spread unfounded propaganda in an attempt to make vaping seem dangerous. I can’t comment on their reasons for doing this, so I’ll let you take a wild guess…
Anyway, here’s what the study actually found: researchers from the University of Athens Medical School led by Prof. Charalambos Vlachopoulos measured the stiffness of the aorta in 24 test subjects, both after using e-cigarettes and smoking tobacco analogs. They found that the unfavorable effects on the major blood vessel from a 30-minute session of vaping were similar to those from 5 minutes of smoking. So from this data alone, we can clearly see that e-cigs are definitely not as bad for your heart as analogs. But there’s more – while the effect of vaping on arterial stiffness disappeared within 30 minutes after discontinuation, the effect of smoking persisted for 60 minutes, despite the considerably shorter exposure time.
Somehow, all these large newspapers found these results to be irrefutable proof that vaping is just as bad for the human heart as vaping. That is outright false!
Here’s what lead researcher Prof. Charalambos Vlachopoulos had to say about the study: “We measured aortic stiffness. If the aorta is stiff you multiply your risk of dying, either from heart diseases or from other causes. The aorta is like a balloon next to the heart. The more stiff the balloon is, the more difficult for the heart to pump.”
Sounds disturbing, doesn’t it? But there are a few things that neither this study, nor the publications using it for destructive purposes mention – there are a lot of things that can cause aorta stiffness. Dr Michael Siegel does a great job listing many of the most common ones, NONE of which are linked to the development of cardiovacular disease. Drinking coffee causes arterial stiffness, but no one is treating caffeine as a potentially lethal drug, and studies have shown that high intensity cardio workouts, watching a suspense movie or even taking exam also increase blood vessel stiffness. Just yell “BOO!” at someone or otherwise frighten them and the stiffness of the aorta will increase temporarily. You get the idea, I think.
It’s the nicotine, folks. That’s what causes the increase in arterial stiffness. Just like caffeine, it’s a powerful stimulant that raises blood pressure but also increases the speed of sensory information processing and sharpens the mind. The arterial stiffness is indeed a side effect, but claiming that it leads to cardiovascular disease implies that all of the other things that cause it are just as dangerous as vaping. Using nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum also increase arterial stiffness, you know, because they contain nicotine, but no one is claiming they are just as bad for your heart as cigarettes. I wonder why…
“I am not trying to downplay the finding that vaping results in acute, adverse changes in vascular function that – if repeated and sustained over decades – could plausibly increase cardiovascular disease risk,” Dr. Michael Siegel wrote on his blog. “However, it is premature to draw such a conclusion and disingenuous to tell the public that the cardiovascular effects of vaping as as bad as those of smoking.”
It seems that in their desperate attempt to demonize electronic cigarettes, many scientists have forgotten the words of British psychiatrist Mike Russell, who said “people smoke for the nicotine, but die from the tar”. This simple phrase spoken 40 years ago laid the foundation for nicotine replacement therapy and now e-cigarettes, but some people only remember it when it’s convenient for them.
In closing, let’s not forget that in Sweden most people get their nicotine fix from a smokeless tobacco called snus. Interestingly, studies put the country’s rates of lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illness among the lowest in Europe. How much do you want to bet that they also exhibit an increase in aorta stiffness during and shortly after use? I guess that makes snus just as bad for the heart as tobacco cigarettes.