August 21, 2019
2 min read

Nicotine-free vaping harms blood vessels after single session

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Nicotine-free e-cigarettes were harmful to blood vessels after just one use, according to study results published in Radiology.

“While e-cigarette liquid may be relatively harmless, the vaporization process can transform the molecules — primarily propylene glycol and glycerol — into toxic substances,” Felix W. Wehrli, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Structural, Physiologic and Functional Imaging and professor of radiologic science, biochemistry and biophysics in the department of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said in a press release. “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.”

To determine if vaping affected vascular health, researchers conducted a prospective study of healthy participants who never smoked. Participants were asked to take 16 puffs each lasting 3 seconds from an e-cigarette that consisted of propylene glycol, glycerol and tobacco flavoring. Unlike most e-cigarettes, it did not include nicotine.

Participants wore a cuff around their thigh to constrict the blood vessels and allow researchers to measure blood flow after it was released. The femoral artery and veins in the leg were examined using a multi-parametric MRI before and after vaping.

Nicotine-free e-cigarettes were harmful to blood vessels after just one use, according to study results published in Radiology.
Source: Adobe Stock

A total of 31 healthy adults who had never smoked with a mean age of 24.3 years were enrolled in the study.

Researchers found that there was an average reduction in femoral artery dilation of 34%. Additionally, peak blood flow was reduced by 17.5% and venous oxygen dropped 20%. The pace at which blood acceleration returned to normal flow when the cuff was released decreased by 25.8% after the vaping session.

The findings suggest that vaping may significantly alter the inner lining of blood vessels, according to study authors.

“I would warn young people to not even get started using e-cigarettes. The common belief is that the nicotine is what is toxic, but we have found that dangers exist, independent of nicotine,” Wehrli said in the release. “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.” – by Erin Michael

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.