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U.K. study finds vaping is no better for you than smoking, can lead to heart disease

E-cigarettes could damage the heart, scientists have concluded, as they called on Public Health England (PHE) to stop recommending vaping.

Researchers looked at 38 studies into the cardiovascular impact of vaping and found worrying signs of damage in nearly three quarters of tests.

When they discounted trials funded by the tobacco industry — or where the scientists involved had conflicts of interest — the number rose to 90 per cent.

Asked if PHE should now change its advice, Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-authored the new analysis, said: “The simple answer is yes.”

Human studies in the new analysis showed that vaping led to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, arterial stiffness and platelets, which cause clotting. It also increased free radicals and reduced antioxidants, raising the risk of plaque build-up in the artery walls, which can lead to a heart attack.

Mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour also developed plaques in arteries and damage to the lining of blood vessels.

About three million Britons vape. Since 2015, PHE has advised smokers to switch to vaping, claiming it is 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco.

However, it has since emerged that a study cited by officials when advising that vaping was safe was funded by the e-cigarette industry. Authors of the new analysis, published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, also said it was “concerning” that so many studies funded by the industry had found no harmful cardiovascular effects.

U.S. health officials warned people to stop vaping after five deaths and at least 215 cases of “respiratory distress”. Prof McKee said: “What is amazing is how PHE simply disregards concerns, as if people in the U.K. have lungs that work differently from those in the U.S.”

An editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine said the U.S. had an “epidemic of vaping-induced respiratory injury”. In March the University of Kansas found vapers were significantly more likely to have a heart attack, develop coronary artery disease and suffer depression than non-vapers.


Vaping products are displayed for sale in a shop in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., February 6, 2019.

Mike Segar /

REUTERS

Earlier this year, the head of Britain’s biggest addiction clinic warned that children as young as 14 were addicts, and that there had been a spike in the number seeking help to quit.

However, experts behind the PHE advice still defend it. Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “It seems highly unlikely that widely available nicotine-containing vaping products, particularly of the type regulated in Europe, are causing these cases.

“Authorities who are reacting to these cases by advising no one to vape are by default sending the message to people who have quit smoking through vaping that they should return to tobacco. This is misleading and potentially irresponsible.

“Authorities in the U.S.A. should be prioritizing confirming the causes and addressing this illicit market.”

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