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Controversial Study Links Vaping to Heart Attack, Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke and Depression

Another day, another study about the negative impact of e-cigarettes on users’ health; this time, it’s research from the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita which found that people who vape are more likely to have a heart attack, coronary artery disease, strokes and depression.

This new study, to be presented at the American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans later this month, examined data from a total of 96,467 respondents from the National Health Interview Survey, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-fielded survey of American adults, from 2014, 2016 and 2017. In their analysis, a team of researchers led by Dr Mohinder Vindhyal looked at the rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, diabetes and depression/anxiety among people who reported using electronic cigarettes – either daily or sometimes – cigarette smokers and people who reported not using any tobacco products.

After analyzing the data, Vindhal and his team concluded that people who used electronic cigarettes were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than non-users. Furthermore, e-cig users were 10 percent more likely to suffer from coronary artery disease, and 44 percent more likely to suffer from blood circulation problems (including blood clots) than people who didn’t use tobacco products. Finally, vapers were apparently twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or other emotional problems, compared to non-users.

“When the risk of heart attack increases by as much as 55 percent among e-cigarettes users compared to nonsmokers, I wouldn’t want any of my patients nor my family members to vape,” Mohinder Vindhyal, MD, assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita, said in a press release. “When we dug deeper, we found that regardless of how frequently someone uses e-cigarettes, daily or just on some days, they are still more likely to have a heart attack or coronary artery disease.”

That’s scary stuff, right? Well, it does get a little better, so don’t throw your vape away just yet. You see, researchers then attempted to control for a host of other known risk factors for these serious health conditions, like age, sex, body mass index, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking. After adjusting the data, vapers were “only” 34 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack, 25 percent more prone to have coronary artery disease and 55 percent more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than non-users. Interestingly, after adjusting for these risk factors, stroke, results for high blood pressure and circulatory problems were no longer statistically different between the two groups. Hmm, interesting indeed…

Here’s the really interesting thing about this study, in my opinion. Although the risk of developing these serious health conditions was much higher in people who smoked compared to non-users, the study authors chose to focus on the effects of electronic cigarettes. For example, tobacco cigarette smokers were 165 percent more likely to have a heart attack, 94 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 78 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, compared to non-smokers.

“Cigarette smoking carries a much higher probability of heart attack and stroke than e-cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean that vaping is safe,” Vindhyal said, adding that some electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and “very similar” toxic compounds to tobacco smoke. That there tells you just how much this researcher knows about vaping. E-cigarette vapor is nowhere close to tobacco smoke, and whatever chemicals they have in common differ very much in concentrations.

So, as I see it, this study clearly shows that vaping poses a considerably lower risk to users health compared to smoking. Is using neither e-cigarettes nor tobacco cigarettes the best case scenario? No question, but as we all know, simply quitting nicotine use isn’t as easy as these studies make it out to be. So why not take a harm reduction approach and support the lower risk alternative, at least until we come up with a better solution?

Oh, and another thing about this study. All that talk about the health risks associated with vaping, well, there is no way to prove causality between e-cigarette use and heart attack, coronary artery disease, stroke, etc.. Because this was a cross-analysis study and not a longitudinal one, there is no way to prove that vaping caused any of these health problems. Virtually every person that reported using electronic cigarette was either a former smoker or a current smoker, so there was no way for the researchers to prove that all these health risks weren’t in fact caused by the participants past or current smoking habits.

If anything, this study shows that tobacco smokers who switch to vaping have a lower risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or coronary artery disease. For the researchers to truly provide proof that vaping actually increases the probability of suffering from these conditions, they would need to conduct a longitudinal study on vapers who have never smoked before, and those are incredibly hard to find, thankfully. The researchers themselves admit that the way this study was designed, showing causality is basically impossible.

Despite the scientists’ own admissions about the limitations of this research, mainstream media is already pushing the notion that electronic cigarettes increase the risk of heart attack, strokes and other serious health problems as fact.

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