E-Cigarette Flavors Could Increase Cardiovascular Risks

Researchers out of the Stanford University School of Medicine have announced, this week, that studies now show e-cigarettes can damage human blood vessel.  More importantly, the study suggests a potential increase in risk for developing cardiovascular disease.  The study also revealed that some e-cigarette flavor liquids could be more damaging than others; and this is regardless of their nicotine concentrations. 

For this study, the researchers looked specifically at six different flavoring liquids, each with different levels of nicotine. The goal, then, was to definitively explore what effects—if any—these liquids could have on human endothelial cells that have been generated from pluripotent stem cells.  Endothelial cells, of course, make up the interior lining of human blood vessels and, more importantly, they play a major role in maintaining cardiovascular health. 

Lead study author Joseph Wu comments, “Until now, we had no data about how these e-liquids affect human endothelial cells. 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.”

In the study, the researchers examined six different flavoring liquids across three concentrations of nicotine.  As expected, cytotoxicity varied between the flavors, but, it seems, the cinnamon e-liquid significantly was easily the most toxic. With all the e-liquids, cellular migration and cell viability decreases were quite prominent among endothelial cells, but the most significant damage was, indeed, found in relation to the cinnamon flavor. Most importantly, this damage was found even within samples that had no nicotine. 

Wu goes on to say, “When you’re smoking a traditional cigarette, you have a sense of how many cigarettes you’re smoking. But e-cigarettes can be deceptive. It’s much easier to expose yourself to a much higher level of nicotine over a shorter time period.”

At the end of the day, experts warn that even though exposure to potentially harmful ingredients in e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices are typically lower, in volume, than traditional cigarettes, we should not assume they are harmless.  Indeed, we are still learning about the long-term effects of these devices on human health and, therefore, irresponsible to recommend their wide use as part of a tobacco control strategy.