Vaping, advertised as safe, immediately affects vascular function

Vaping—or inhaling vaporized liquid through an e-cigarette—immediately affects the user’s vascular function, according to a new study published by Radiology. This is true even when the solution does not include nicotine.

The study’s authors noted that researchers still don’t know everything about the impact e-cigarettes can have on users. However, its popularity continues to grow. According to a prepared statement, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018 alone.

“The use of e-cigarettes is a current public health issue because of widespread use, especially among teenagers, and the fact that the devices are advertised as safe despite uncertainty about the effects of long-term use,” lead author Alessandra Caporale, PhD, of the Laboratory for Structural, Physiologic and Functional Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said in the statement.

Caporale et al. performed MRI scans on 31 healthy non-smoking young adults before and after they inhaled through a nicotine-free e-cigarette. The team observed “reduced blood flow and impaired vascular reactivity” in the femoral artery in the leg. Flow-mediated dilation was down 34% after vaping, and peak flow was down 17.5%. A 20% reduction in hemoglobin saturation and 3% increase in aortic pulse-wave velocity were also detected.

“These products are advertised as not harmful, and many e-cigarette users are convinced that they are just inhaling water vapor,” Caporale said in the same statement. “But the solvents, flavorings and additives in the liquid base, after vaporization, expose users to multiple insults to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.”

The study’s authors concluded that “it would be desirable to corroborate our findings in larger cohorts.”