The mass media is giving vaping a whipping again. Nothing new there. This time the bad press has been generated by the results of a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Cardiology.
The study gave the media yet another opportunity to point a wagging finger at vaping. Within a matter of hours, it was big news and some journalists chose to use the most damning headlines possible:
Writing for Mail Online, Mary Kekatos went with:
“E-cigarettes DO increase your risk of heart disease, study claims”
Lizzy Parry over at The Sun chose to go a little further:
“VAPING BAD E-cigarettes ‘damage your heart – raising risk of heart attack and stroke'”
Many people remain blissfully unaware of the fact that vaping has been shown to be 95% less dangerous than smoking tobacco products. In fact, a lot of smokers have been (media) conditioned to believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking. So they fail to make the switch to a safer alternative and continue hammering nails into their coffins one “fag” at a time. With so many scary headlines, it’s not surprising.
The scientists began with a question:
“Do habitual electronic cigarette users have increased cardiac sympathetic activity and oxidative stress, both risk factors for future adverse cardiac events?”
They also stated virtually nothing is known about the cardiovascular risks they may present. Vaping is a relatively new practice, so there is a modicum of truth to their statement, but let’s not forget there can be no doubt about the cardiovascular risks tobacco smoking presents.
The scientists objective was:
“To test the hypothesis that an imbalance of cardiac autonomic tone and increased systemic oxidative stress and inflammation are detectable in otherwise healthy humans who habitually use e-cigarettes.”
Forty-two test subjects were involved in the study. All of them were believed to be in good health. Twenty-three of them were e-cigarette users. Nineteen did not use e-cigarettes or tobacco products.
After monitoring all the people involved and looking at the data obtained, the scientists concluded:
“In this study, habitual e-cigarette use was associated with a shift in cardiac autonomic balance toward sympathetic predominance and increased oxidative stress, both associated with increased cardiovascular risk.”
To put it simply, their data lead them to believe e-cigarette usage boosts adrenalin levels in the heart and increases oxidative stress.
Why the Study is Not as Damning as the Media Make it Appear
Vaping and Adrenalin
Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. A lot of factors, including stress, can cause the adrenal gland to go to work, but the main reason is when the body goes into a condition called “fight or flight.” The presence of the extra adrenalin makes it possible to fight harder, run faster, or do whatever else is needed to try and survive. People running a race, racing a car or indulging in other exciting activities may experience an adrenalin rush.
Speaking about the results of the study, a spokesman for the UK Vaping Industry Association said: “Studies like this one merely show that vaping could have a similar effect on the heart to that of, for example, drinking a cup of coffee or watching a scary film.”
Vaping and Oxidative Stress
There is no escaping oxidative stress. It’s a process caused by free radicals. These toxins are in the air we breath, the food we eat, and in prescription medications. Even water contains free radicals, but some things contain more than others.
White bread generally contains more free radicals than brown bread. Excessive alcohol consumption is also pretty bad, from a “free radical” viewpoint, and tobacco smoke contains more 4,000 toxic chemicals.
The body also manufactures free radicals. There are many reasons this may occur. Lack of sleep is one of them. Stress is another. People who vape will undoubtedly put extra free radicals into their bodies, but not nearly so many as people who smoke or eat an unusually unhealthy diet.
Expert Response and Study Flaws
Cardiologist, Holly Middlekauff, states, “My patients need to know and the public needs to know that if you don’t already smoke tobacco cigarettes, you shouldn’t start smoking e-cigarettes because they’re not harmless.”
The key words to remember here are “if you don’t already smoke tobacco cigarettes.” Even the most avid vaping enthusiast will probably admit the best thing to fill your lungs with is fresh air, but let’s not forget vaping is 95% less dangerous than tobacco smoke.
A number of experts have also drawn attention to the fact that the study participants were using e-liquid that contained nicotine and pointed out its presence probably caused most of the changes recorded in the study. Many vaping enthusiasts use e-liquids that do not contain nicotine.
Experts also note the lack of control group made up of cigarette smokers. The study results are further flawed by the fact that it was not a clinical trial and lacked proper control. The participants were reporting their own usage habits, the researchers were taking them at their word, and not all the participants were being honest. Several participants had to be removed from the study because the levels of carbon monoxide in their blood revealed they were smokers. Many articles fail to mention any of these facts.