12-month study shows switching from smoking to vaping reduces hypertension

It’s a well-known fact that the smoking of combustible tobacco cigarettes increases the risks of hypertension and heart disease.  In fact, the risks are elevated even in cases of second-hand smoke. As far back as the 1960s, scientists have known that smoking cigarettes clogs or narrows the arterial walls, limits the blood’s clotting capabilities, and hardens the arteries.

The reason for this is because the burning of tobacco leaves produces a smoke that is filled with tar – a thick, gooey, nasty substance that sticks to the walls of the lungs and respiratory system, as well.  Since nicotine-based vaping is 100 percent tobacco-free, many smokers wonder if making the switch would help improve their hypertension symptoms.  A vaping study conducted by an international group of scientist suggests that it does. 

Overview of the vaping study

The research paper entitled Effect of continuous smoking reduction and abstinence on blood pressure and heart rate in smokers switching to electronic cigarettes appears in the medical journal Internal and Emergency Medicine.  Led by co-authors Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos and Dr. Riccardo Polosa, the project involved 211 participants and lasted for a full 12-months. 

Farsalinos is a world-class cardiologist and a research fellow at the University of Patras Department of Pharmacology and the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece.  Polosa is a tenured professor of internal medicine and a respiratory disease specialist at the University of Catania, Italy.

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Polosa had previously conducted a rather historic, double-blind, randomized clinic study in 2013 called Efficiency and Safety of an Electronic Cigarette (ECLAT).  The focus of this prior study was to determine whether switching to electronic cigarettes produces positive or negative impacts on a person’s chances of quitting smoking permanently.  For the more recent hypertension research, Polosa and Farsalinos carefully selected their 211 participants from within the control group used in the ECLAT project.

This means that all participants were documented former smokers who had successfully quit through vaping. 144 of the participants also had medical histories of hypertension.  The remaining 66 volunteers were exhibiting slightly elevated heart rates, which is often a precursor to hypertension.

Vaping, nicotine strengths, and hypertension

Since all participants came from the 2013 study, the scientists already had the documented evidence proving that switching to vaping from smoking improves cardiovascular health and regulates blood pressure levels.   The primary objective of the new study was to determine if the nicotine percentages of different e-liquids had any associated effects on the rates of improvement.

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The Farsalinos-Polosa team began by dividing the participants into three distinct categories: Low nicotine e-liquid users, Medium-nicotine e-liquid users, and High-nicotine e-liquid users. All participants regardless of category were provided the same cig-a-like device.  No open tank vaping was allowed so as to optimally control the overall experimental conditions.  What the Polosa-Farsalinos team discovered is that the measurable levels of hypertensive improvements were directly proportional to the nicotine strengths of the e-liquids being vaped.

“When the same analysis was repeated in 66 subjects with elevated BP at baseline, a substantial reduction in systolic BP was observed at week 52 compared to baseline (132.4 ± 12.0 vs. 141.2 ± 10.5 mmHg, p < 0.001), with a significant effect found for smoking phenotype classification. After adjusting for weight change, gender and age, reduction in systolic BP from baseline at week 52 remains associated significantly with both smoking reduction and smoking abstinence. In conclusion, smokers who reduce or quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes may lower their systolic BP in the long term, and this reduction is apparent in smokers with elevated BP. The current study adds to the evidence that quitting smoking with the use of e-cigarettes does not lead to higher BP values, and this is independently observed whether e-cigarettes are regularly used or not.”

All participants were carefully monitored throughout the year-long study to ensure that no one experienced any harmful or challenging side effects, and no significant side effects were recorded.  The scientists further noted in their research that switching to vaping for people who have no desire to quit smoking permanently also produces long-term positive effects on their high blood pressure levels.  Transitioning to vaping even produces measurable improvements in blood pressure rates even when vaping zero-nicotine e-liquids, too. 

Related Article:   Dr. Farsalinos: Vaping offers immediate benefits for myocardial functions

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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