UCLA researchers have found that e-cigarettes may not be as harmless as commonly believed.
In a study published earlier this month, researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health have found that e-cigarette users may also incur increased heart risk from smoking, similar to traditional cigarette users.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that vaporize flavored liquids which usually contain nicotine. They do not produce tobacco smoke and are commonly used by young adults.
Researchers found that participants who used e-cigarettes in the study were more likely to have signs of oxidative stress and higher adrenaline levels than those who did not use e-cigarettes.
Oxidative stress, or an imbalance in the body’s ability to detoxify the harmful effects of free radicals, and levels of adrenaline, which may lead to increased heart rate and high blood pressure, are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Holly Middlekauff, the study’s co-author and cardiologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine, said most people believe e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but they found similar signs of heart risk with both groups of users.
However, the researchers said they cannot draw a causal conclusion between e-cigarettes and heart risks because the findings only show a correlation.
“Most studies show that carcinogens are present at much lower levels in e-cigarettes compared to tobacco cigarettes,” Middlekauff said. “So it is conceivable that the risk for heart disease is similar for e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes, but … the risk for cancer is much greater with tobacco cigarettes.”
She said the researchers are currently comparing the cardiovascular effects of tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarette use.
“If you don’t already smoke tobacco cigarettes, don’t start using e-cigarettes – they are not harmless,” Middlekauff said.