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People puffing e-cigs are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes and depression

As the electronic cigarette market continues to grow, a new study being presented next week links vaping to heart and mental health impacts

A new, yet to-be-published study of nearly 100,000 Americans finds e-cigarette users are 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than non-users.


"These data are a real wake-up call and should prompt more action and awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes," said Dr. Mohinder Vindhyal, assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita and the study's lead author, in a statement.

The research, which will be presented on March 18 at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session, is the latest evidence that the fast rise of e-cigarettes—often marketed as a way to quit traditional tobacco use—may be leaving users with serious health impacts and comes as the feds crackdown on e-cigarette sales to children.

E-cigarettes come in many varieties but most are battery operated and heat a liquid that contains nicotine, solvents, and sometimes flavorings and other chemicals, to create a vapor that is inhaled, which is often referred to as vaping.

Researchers examined data from 96,467 people from the National Health Interview Survey, which is run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They had information from 2014, 2016 and 2017 and looked at whether or not people used e-cigarettes and rates of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and depression and anxiety.

Compared to non-users, they found e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. Users reported 10 percent more coronary artery disease problems and 44 percent more circulatory problems. In addition, users were twice as likely to have depression or anxiety.

"When the risk of heart attack increases by as much as 55 percent among e-cigarettes users compared to nonsmokers, I wouldn't want any of my patients nor my family members to vape," Vindhyal said. "When we dug deeper, we found that regardless of how frequently someone uses e-cigarettes, daily or just on some days, they are still more likely to have a heart attack or coronary artery disease."

Vindhyal and colleagues also looked at risk from traditional tobacco use and it was even worse: Compared to non-users, traditional tobacco users were 165 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 78 percent more likely to have a stroke.

"Cigarette smoking carries a much higher probability of heart attack and stroke than e-cigarettes, but that doesn't mean that vaping is safe," Vindhyal said.

The study comes just a couple months after another national study that examined data from 400,000 Americans and linked e-cigarette use with a 70 percent higher risk of stroke, 60 percent higher risk of heart attacks.

In 2017, researchers found college students that reported depression symptoms were more likely to start smoking e-cigarettes.

The study doesn't point to potential causes of the increased health risks, but there are multiple chemicals in e-cigarettes for flavoring and to create the vapor that could be targeting blood vessels and impacting the heart.

Feds take aim at sales to children

E-cigarette and flavors. (Credit: Lauri Rantala/flickr)

E-cigarettes are a fast-growing market—an estimated 1 out of 20 people in the U.S. are users, and there are an estimated 460 brands.

Regulators are scrambling to catch up. Just this week U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb put out a strong statement calling kids' e-cigarette use an "epidemic" and outlined actions to stop children's access to the products.

The letter called out retailers such as Walgreen Co., 7-Eleven, and gas stations such as Marathon, Exxon, Sunoco, BP, Citgo and Mobil, for having "disturbingly high rates of violations for illegal sales of tobacco products to minors."

"Companies should be on notice that the FDA is considering additional enforcement avenues to address high rates of violations," Gottlieb wrote. "Ignoring the law and then paying associated fines and penalties should not simply be viewed as a cost of doing business.'

The next day, Gottlieb, who was known even prior to the letter for his aggressive actions to regulate tobacco and e-cigarette businesses, unexpectedly announced that he would resign at the end of the month.

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