Many e-cigarette smokers view them as a ‘safer’ alternative to traditional cigarettes. Some studies have suggested that e-cigarettes deliver lower levels of carcinogens than regular cigarettes, enhancing the appeal of the devices. But, a new study is saying that e-cigarette flavors may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The study, led by researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine, has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The researchers set out to study the effects of vaping on cardiovascular health. The goal was to explore what effect e-cigarette liquids had on human endothelial cells, which were produced in a laboratory setting from induced pluripotent stem cells. The team used six e-liquids with varying nicotine concentrations. The flavors tested included fruit, tobacco, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, sweet butterscotch, cinnamon, and menthol.
The results of the study were clear. Lead researcher Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, said in a statement, “When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction.”
Cells exposed to the caramel, cinnamon, and vanilla flavors showed increased signs of inflammation and decreased ability to migrate to heal wounds. The cinnamon and menthol flavors appeared to disrupt the cells’ ability to form new blood vessels and significantly decreased cell viability. Many of the changes were noted even in the absence of nicotine, indicating that the flavors themselves are the cause of the cells’ decline.
The results are concerning to many alarmed by the rise in vaping among younger Americans. According to data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last November, vaping increased almost 80 percent among high schoolers and 50 percent among middle schoolers from the prior year. Roughly 3.6 million middle and high school students reported themselves to be current e-cigarette users in 2018, more than double the number for the previous year.