Vaping may cause heart damage similar to traditional cigarettes, a study suggests.
Exposure to e-cigarette vapor led to heart arrhythmias — premature or skipped heart beats — in mice.
An irregular heartbeat can lead to life-threatening complications, including strokes, blood clots and even cardiac arrest in severe cases.
Rodents exposed to vape smoke saw their heartrate plummet immediately after the experiment then shoot up rapidly shortly after
This was only the case with specific chemicals found in fruity and menthol flavored vapes which are becoming increasingly popular among children.
Tobacco cigarettes also cause users’ heartrate to drop just 20 minutes after smoking before shooting back up, according to the FDA.
Lead researcher of the study, Dr Alex Carll, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, said: ‘Our findings demonstrate that short-term exposure to e-cigarettes can destabilize heart rhythm through specific chemicals within e-liquids.’
It comes as the US and UK grapple with a vape epidemic among children, with 2.6million US teens regular users.
E-cigarette devices have been linked to a multitude of heart and lung issues as regulators crack down on their use in the US, especially among younger people (file photo)
Mice who were exposed to smoke from e-cigarettes saw their heart rate drop by up to 400 bpm. The affect was more pronounced among male mice than female mice.
More than 2.5 million US children use e-cigarettes – rising a half-million from last year and reversing downward trends in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 2.55 million Americans in middle or high school admit using the device in the past 30 days. It is a jump of 500,000, or of 24 per cent, from 2021. It is the first increase since the CDC started gathering annual data in 2019
Cardiac arrhythmias: Unpredictable and sometimes fatal
Cardiac Arrhythmia causes the heart to beat irregularly
The normal electrical signals that tell the heart to pump blood to the lungs or to the rest of the body fail, putting the heart out of rhythm
Many things can cause an arrythmia, such as a heart attack, blocked arteries, diabetes, infection with COVID-19, or even sleep apnea and stress and anxiety
Some arrythmias have no clear cause
There are several types of arrhythmias, though the most common is an atrial fibrillation, often shortened to AFib
AFibs are responsible for an estimated 460,000 hospitalizations each year in the US, and play a role in 150,000 deaths
According to the CDC, about 2,000 young, healthy people under the age of 25 die of sudden cardiac arrest in the United States each year
Severe arrhythmias are fatal if a regular heartbeat isn’t restored within minutes
Arrhythmias are fairly common and can be short-lived and harmless
It may feel like a fluttering or racing sensation in the heart
Treatments can range from medication to surgeries and even implanted devices to control heart rate
The Biden Administration has vowed to slash the use of vapes in the US, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cracking down on the industry this year.
Flavored devices – which are most popular among kids – now require specific approval from the agency to remain on US shelves.
The latest study, published in Nature Communications, exposed mice to e-cigarette aerosols to gauge how their hearts would react.
Scientists tested aerosols from the two main ingredients in e-liquids – nicotine-free propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin – or from flavored retail e-liquids containing nicotine.
For all e-cigarette aerosols, the rodents’ heart rate slowed during active exposure to the smoke and sped up afterwards, indicating a ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response.
But menthol-flavored e-liquid or from propylene glycol alone caused ventricular arrhythmias and other disruptions to heart rhythm.
‘These findings suggest that e-cigarette use involving certain flavors or solvent vehicles may disrupt the heart’s electrical conduction and provoke arrhythmias,’ Dr Carll added.
‘These effects could increase the risk for atrial or ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest.’
While some believe e-cigarettes are relatively harmless compared to standard cigarettes, researchers have long warned that they carry risks of their own.
Previous research has found that people who regularly vape are at risk of developing airway obstructions similar to those suffered by people with asthma and COPD.
A Harvard University study published last month found that younger chronic users were experiencing respiratory symptoms similar to those of severe lung conditions.
There are also reports of vape users suffering ‘popcorn lung’, a potentially devastating condition caused by the diacetyl in many flavored devices.
The recent Louisville research adds to the many potential long-term health defects tied to vaping, according to Dr Aruni Bhatnagar, an environmental medicine professor at the school.
‘The findings of this study are important because they provide fresh evidence that the use of e-cigarettes could interfere with normal heart rhythms – something we did not know before,’ he said.
‘This is highly concerning given the rapid growth of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people.’
Use of vapes among young people has emerged as a major health problem in the US and across the world.
The CDC reported earlier this month that 2.55million children aged 11 to 17 in America are using e-cigarettes. Nearly a third of that group use one every day.
While the figure has fallen from its peak of 5.4million teenage users in 2019, it still shows a worrying 20 per cent rise from 2021, where there were 2.06million users.