E-cigarette users are more at risk for heart attack, heart disease, or stroke than those who don’t vape or smoke, according to what is being touted as the first study linking vaping to stroke.
The preliminary research will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Honolulu next week. The unpublished study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, and study authors have made it clear that more research is needed to prove that e-cigarettes cause stroke.
“There are still unanswered questions about their [e-cigarettes’] safety,” Paul Ndunda, the lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Wichita, told The Daily Beast. “There is a consensus among experts that e-cigarette use among young people present significant risk and should be strongly discouraged through education and public health policy. These efforts need to continue.”
The number of high-schoolers using e-cigarettes rose by 900 percent between 2011 and 2015, and in 2018 the CDC found that 1 in 5 high schoolers had used them. Many teens think vaping isn’t as harmful because it’s just water vapor (untrue), and recently Juul has come under fire for specifically marketing to youth.
The study, an analysis of 2016 data from the CDC’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, took into account age, sex, diabetes diagnosis and BMI, and looked at reponses from 350,000 people, of whom almost 67,000 said they regularly used e-cigarettes. The findings were that e-cigarette users had a 71 percent higher risk of stroke, 59 percent higher risk of heart attack, and 40 percent higher risk of heart disease, though the study wasn’t able to show causation.
“This is the first real data that we're seeing associating e-cigarette use with hard cardiovascular events,” Larry Goldman, chairman of the department of neurology and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, told The Daily Beast. “It's quite a concern, especially since nationwide now we've seen a leveling off in, and in many instances an increase in the risk of stroke-related mortality in the country. It's hard to know what contribution this has to that, but it doesn't appear to be safer [than smoking], or safe right now from the data that's available."
“There’s so much research needed,” Emery wrote via email. “To me, one of the most urgent issues is understanding transitions between vaping and combustible cigarette smoking; the early studies I’ve seen suggest that many people who start vaping but are not cigarette smokers actually have a higher risk of transitioning to cigarette smoking.”
Ndunda agreed, and emphasized the need for long-term studies further exploring both the broad health risks of e-cigarette use, as well as stroke specifically.
“There is a consensus among experts that e-cigarette use among young people present significant risk and should be strongly discouraged through education and public health policy,” said Ndunda. “These efforts need to continue.”