A new study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania examined the short term effects of ‘vaping’ nicotine-free e-cigarettes, and their findings indicate that e-cigarettes may be more harmful than helpful. Alessandra Caporale, Postdoctoral Researcher, Laboratory for Structural, Physiologic, and Functional Imaging, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is the lead author of the research. Caporale says that e-cigarettes are advertised as not being harmful and e-cigarette users are convinced that they are inhaling nothing but water vapor, however, the solvents, flavorings, and additives in the liquid base, following vaporization, cause severe damage to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.
The research required 31 healthy non-smoking adults with an average age of 24 years to take an MRI scan prior to and after using a nicotine-free e-cigarette. The e-cigarettes used in the research contained propylene glycol and glycerol with a tobacco flavor but did not contain any nicotine. The participants were asked to take 16 puffs, lasting for about 3 seconds each. The team constricted the participants’ blood vessels and released them to measure the participants’ ‘reactive hyperemia,’ which is a brief hike in blood flow following the occlusion of an artery. Reactive hyperemia is believed by some researchers to be a useful predictive measure of the vascular and endothelial function, although some are doubtful of its reliability. The scans showed reduced blood flow in the femoral artery, which is the main artery that takes blood to the leg and thigh. The team also observed lower reactive hyperemia. Based on the results, the team concluded that inhaling nicotine-free e-cigarette aerosol “transiently impacted endothelial function in healthy non-smokers.”
Damage to the endothelium can lead to poor circulation and thick arteries, and can also cause a blockage in the blood flow to the heart and brain, which can end up in a heart attack or a stroke. The study found that the femoral artery’s dilation dropped by 34%. The peak blood flow decreased by 17.5% after vaping, whereas venous oxygen levels declined by 20%, and reactive hyperemia dropped by 26%.