Switching to vaping shows 'clear benefit to vascular health'

Long-term smokers who switched to vaping were halfway to achieving the vascular health of a non-smoker within a month, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of Dundee said they discovered a “clear early benefit” in switching from smoking to vaping in the largest clinical trial to date.

Those who ditched cigarettes and vaped instead saw their blood vessel function increase by around 1.5 percentage points within four weeks, compared with those who continued smoking.

The researchers said they did not know whether this benefit would be sustained, with more research needed into the long-term implications of vaping.

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And they warned vaping is not safe, merely “less harmful” than smoking.

But they said if this improvement was sustained into the long term, those who switched would have at least a 13pc reduced risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

The study recruited 114 adult UK smokers who had smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day for at least two years and were free from established cardiovascular disease.

Some 40 patients continued smoking tobacco cigarettes, 37 switched to e-cigarettes with nicotine and 37 switched to e-cigarettes without. Researchers measured changes in blood vessel function – the earliest detectable change to cardiovascular health – through a test called flow mediated dilation (FMD).

This measures how far a blood vessel opens and they used another test to measure stiffness of the blood vessels.

Overall, the groups who gave up for e-cigarettes experienced a 1.49 percentage point improvement in their vascular function compared with those who continued smoking.

Separate meta-analysis has shown that for every 1pc improvement in vascular health, 13pc fewer cardiovascular events occur over the long term.

A healthy non-smoker can expect an average FMD score of 7.7pc, the authors said. Chronic smokers who switched to vaping with nicotine saw their FMD increase by about a fifth from 5.5pc to 6.7pc at the end of the month.

This means that, within a month, the new vapers were around halfway towards achieving the FMD of a healthy non-smoker.

Earlier this week, cardiologists said action must be taken to prevent an entire generation becoming addicted to nicotine, as they published research suggesting vaping could damage the brain, heart, blood vessels and lungs.

They said there is a “paucity of evidence” to support claims e-cigarettes are a “healthy” alternative to smoking or that they help people quit.

This contrasts to advice from Public Health England (PHE), which stands by its claim that e-cigarettes are 95pc less harmful than smoking.

Jacob George, professor of cardiovascular medicine and therapeutics, who led the study, said conflicting safety advice from public health bodies across the world has led to confusion for the public and policymakers.

He said: “It is crucial to emphasise that e-cigarettes are not safe, just less harmful than tobacco cigarettes when it comes to vascular health.

“They should not be seen as harmless devices for non-smokers or young people to try. However, for chronic tobacco smokers there were significant improvements in vascular function within a month of switching from a tobacco cigarette to an e-cigarette.”

The findings are published in the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’.

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