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More vaping-linked hospitalizations as study finds nicotine-free e-cigs can damage blood vessels

New research has revealed systemic vascular changes immediately after nicotine-free e-cigarette use by healthy non-smokers
New research has revealed systemic vascular changes immediately after nicotine-free e-cigarette use by healthy non-smokers
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New research has revealed systemic vascular changes immediately after nicotine-free e-cigarette use by healthy non-smokers
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New research has revealed systemic vascular changes immediately after nicotine-free e-cigarette use by healthy non-smokers

New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has shown nicotine-free e-cigarette vapor can have an immediate harmful effect on the body's vascular function. The study was published as the CDC begins investigating an increasing number of hospitalizations across the country being linked to e-cigarette use.

The new study set out to investigate the immediate effects of vaping on systemic vascular function. The e-cigarette liquid used in the study was nicotine-free, and the experiments included 31 healthy adults who were all non-smokers.

All participants were comprehensively examined using MRI scans before and after e-cigarette inhalation, with each participant inhaling 16, three-second puffs on an e-cigarette device. The results revealed significant immediate systemic changes in vascular function. On average, this single session of e-cigarette use resulted in a 34 percent reduction in the femoral artery's dilation, a 20 percent reduction in venous oxygen, and a 17.5 percent drop in peak blood flow.

"While e-cigarette liquid may be relatively harmless, the vaporization process can transform the molecules – primarily propylene glycol and glycerol – into toxic substances," says Felix Wehrli, principal investigator on the study. "Beyond the harmful effects of nicotine, we've shown that vaping has a sudden, immediate effect on the body's vascular function, and could potentially lead to long-term harmful consequences."

The researchers are clear in the study that the causal mechanism generating these observed effects is still unknown. It is unclear exactly what constituents in the aerosol could be causing the damage, however, the removal of nicotine from the study allows the researchers to at the very least rule that chemical out.

The study also does not indicate how long these vascular alterations remain following e-cigarette use. The researchers note that longer term work in larger cohorts will be important in understanding how permanently damaging these effects are.

"I would warn young people to not even get started using e-cigarettes," says Wehrli. "The common belief is that the nicotine is what is toxic, but we have found that dangers exist, independent of nicotine. Clearly if there is an effect after a single use of an e-cigarette, then you can imagine what kind of permanent damage could be caused after vaping regularly over years."

The new study appears at a moment when e-cigarette safety is in the broader national spotlight. Earlier in August the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported a cluster of hospitalizations of teenagers with lung damage. These instances of severe lung disease in teenagers and young adults are being associated with heavy e-cigarette use.

A more recent media statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), claims there have now been 94 cases of hospitalization with lung disease possibly associated with vaping. This tally has reportedly risen to 127 cases across 15 states, with e-cigarette use being the only common factor linking all the patients.

The CDC's involvement in the matter is one of consultation to the different state departments of health reporting the cases. The CDC notes it is unclear if these hospitalizations are directly caused by e-cigarette use or whether an unknown infectious agent is involved.

The new research was published in the journal Radiology.

Source: Penn Medicine News

1 comment
Paul Muad'Dib
127 cases? That's remarkable, with 10.8 million Americans using e-cigarette I have thought there would have been many more than that.