E-Cigarettes Significantly Raise Risk of Stroke, Heart Disease

Thomas Ylioja, PhD has been fielding a lot of phone calls lately.
As a tobacco expert and the associate clinical director of health initiatives at National Jewish Health, Dr. Ylioja has been giving his thoughts on a slew of research that’s come out over the past few weeks regarding e-cigarettes.
The electronic devices are already being blamed for reversing positive trends in lowering teenage smoking rates as kids who vape are more likely to try cigarettes.
Now, the “safer” claims marketed with e-cigarettes are being debated through various studies. While some experts point to e-cigarettes as a way to help people stay off traditional cigarettes, others point to potential increases in diseases associated with them, such as stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
One study published in the The New England Journal of Medicine examined where e-cigarettes may fit in with smoking cessation. Ylioja called the research a “well done” paper with its randomized design of 886 participants.
The study concluded that after one year of choosing a therapy, 18 percent of those who used e-cigarettes were still smoke-free, compared to the almost 10 percent who used non-inhalable nicotine delivery methods such as patches, gums, or lozenges.
But there’s one thing about the study that stood out to Ylioja: 80 percent of e-cigarette users were still using the devices a year after the study began, compared to the 9 percent still using the other methods.
And people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use the products while still smoking typically where vaping is allowed and smoking isn’t, he said.
As Healthline recently reported, more states, counties, and cities are lumping e-cigarettes in with the traditional ones and banning them both indoors and in some outdoor public places.
Ylioja argues that because e-cigarettes are more discreet, they’re reversing progress made on eliminating places were smokers can smoke. The fewer opportunities there are for someone to inhale nicotine, the reasoning goes, the more likely they are to quit nicotine altogether.
“You’re not raising the bar very high if it’s safer than smoking tobacco,” Ylioja said.
He notes, in particular, the “volume of toxic chemicals” emitted from burning tobacco.
“It’s only better if it helps someone completely avoid combustible tobacco,” Ylioja told Healthline.
E-cigarettes and stroke
The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released the findings of a study at the AHA International Stroke Conference 2019 in Honolulu.
Calling it “the largest study to date examining e-cigarettes and stroke,” researchers used responses from about 400,000 people in the 2016 behavioral risk factor surveillance system survey. Nearly 67,000 people reported using e-cigarettes at some point while the rest hadn’t.
“Compared with non-users, e-cigarette users were younger, had a lower body mass index, and a lower rate of diabetes,” Paul M. Ndunda, MD, the study’s author and an assistant professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas, said in a statement.
In other words, they had attributes that made them less likely to have cardiovascular-related problems, yet e-cigarette users still had higher risks of diseases often associated with smoking.
One was a 71 percent higher risk of stroke, as 4.2 percent of e-cigarette users reported having one. Other key findings include a nearly 60 percent increased likelihood of having a heart attack and 40 percent increase in risk of developing coronary heart disease.
The study also found that e-cigarette users had double the rate of smoking traditional combustible cigarettes.