Large study on the difference between smoking and vaping - "Convincing"?

Smokers' blood vessels improved just one month after switching to e-cigarettes. This is according to a randomised control trial in which researchers measured the elasticity and response time of blood vessels in ex-smokers who switched to vaping.

(Original article from 2021 - updated August 2023)

Slow reaction time and stiffness of blood vessels is an early sign of incipient cardiovascular disease problems. The effects of smoking on blood vessels are well known, and can be detected early by measuring the reaction time and stiffness of blood vessels.

Previous research has suggested that even vapour from e-cigarettes, affects the arteries in the same way as smoking. This has become an argument among lobby groups and a major reason for restricting the availability of e-cigarettes in several countries, including Sweden. A recently published Swedish study looked at changes in vascular stiffness when some people used e-cigarettes with or without nicotine. The results showed that e-cigarettes with nicotine affected the blood vessels. The study took place over a short period at Danderyd Hospital.

Clear improvements with e-cigs

To study how it works for humans under more real-world conditions, researchers at universityone in Dundee 114 people. All had smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day for a period of two years before the study. None of them had a previous diagnosis of vascular disease. The subjects were randomly divided into three groups; one group continued to smoke, two groups swapped cigarettes for e-cigarettes, one with and the other without nicotine.

The results of the study showed that the ability of vessels to contract had increased significantly in the group that used e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes. Already after one month. Together with measurements of the stiffness of the vessels the participants who vaped showed clear signs of improved vascular health. This was compared to the group that still smoked.

Convincing effects on blood vessels

The results were the same whether or not the road users used nicotine. The main difference between the participants was that the female participants got slightly better values than the men in the study.

 'Previous studies have suggested that e-cigarettes and nicotine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. But this has been about short studies, or experiments on mice. This study has followed participants for a much longer period of time. It gives us compelling data to add to what we already know about the health effects of e-cigarettes. In addition, it is reassuring that the improvements in the vessels occur even when nicotine is used" says Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce at the University of Oxford, to Science media centre.

Not for non-smokers

Like the researchers in the study, she emphasises that e-cigarettes are not completely risk-free.

 "A non-smoker should not start using e-cigarettes. But a smoker can rest assured that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to them than regular cigarettes" says Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce.

The study is published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology and was funded by the Bittish Heart Foundation (equivalent to the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation). British health authorities, together with the Medical Association Royal College of Physicians wants to use e-cigarettes to reduce the harm of smoking in England.

"A proof of why we feel better"

I dagsläget använder närmare 200 000 svenskar e-cigaretter delvis eller dagligen. Ett 40-tal svenska företag säljer i dag e-cigaretter och vejpprodukter.

"The study means a lot to us road users and is further evidence of why we feel better with e-cigs than with cigarettes" says Michael Karvonen from the vape shop VapeMore in a comment on the study.

Independent company behind disposable weapons

At present, none of the large tobacco companieswhich also manufactures electronic nicotine systems, has launched e-cigarettes on a larger scale in Sweden. Most of the single-use models available in retail stores are manufactured by independent companies although British American Tobacco sells a variant in some shops. Phillip Morris also sells its IQOS system, a tobacco-based heat-not-burn product, through several major retailers.


The study from the University of Dundee can be read here

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