E-cigarette users are 15% more likely to suffer a stroke in middle-age than regular smokers


E-cigarette users may be more likely to suffer a stroke in middle-age than traditional smokers, research suggests. 

Academics in New York — who tracked almost 100,000 Americans — found smokers were up to six times more likely to suffer a stroke than vapers. 

But vapers faced roughly a 15 per cent higher risk of being struck down at an earlier age, compared to smokers.

E-cigarette users suffered their first stroke aged 48, on average — a decade earlier than traditional cigarette smokers.  

While vaping is generally accepted as healthier than cigarettes, researchers warned exposure to the devices at a young age can still do irreparable damage. 

Smoking cigarettes increases a person’s risk of suffering strokes as well as other conditions including cancer and heart disease.

It comes as Britain is poised to become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit. 

Smokers could soon be prescribed e-cigarettes on the NHS to help them kick the habit, medical regulators say (stock image)

Smokers could soon be prescribed e-cigarettes on the NHS to help them kick the habit, medical regulators say (stock image)

Strokes were diagnosed in vapers at age 48 on average, whereas smokers did not experience the condition until age 59.

In the study researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York, looked through a national survey of adults who had previously suffered a stroke.

Vaping is just as bad as smoking cigarettes for increasing the risk of heart disease 

Vaping causes significant damage to blood vessels in the same way as smoking traditional cigarettes, a study has found.

Blood vessels become stiffer and less effective in vapers and people who both vape and smoke, compared to non-smokers.

People who only inhale from cigarettes and do not vape also have the same issue of stiffening blood vessels.

Nicotine — the addictive substance in vapes and cigarettes — constricts blood vessels and over time this leads to a loss of elasticity.

Rigid arteries and blood vessels are known to increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.

Researchers studied more than 400 men and women aged between 21 and 45 made up of non-smokers, cigarette smokers, e-cigarette users and people who both smoked and vaped.

All e-cigarette users were former cigarette smokers.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Wednesday, found that former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes and dual users had arteries that were just as stiff as those in traditional smokers.

They checked patients’ records for between 2015 to 2018 to establish which were smokers, vapers, or used both.

Results showed smokers were most likely to suffer a stroke (6.75 per cent), followed by those who both vaped and smoked (3.72 per cent) and those who vaped (1.09 per cent).

The researchers said vaping could trigger strokes because its smoke may contain potentially harmful chemicals.

They said these could damage blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis, when a blockage builds up in an artery.

This can reduce blood flow to the brain, leading to a stroke.

Normal cigarettes also raise someone’s risk of atherosclerosis and suffering a stroke. 

Scientists not involved in the study pointed out the study did not consider whether people who vaped beforehand had been smokers previously. 

Some scientists say e-cigarettes are better for people than smoking because their vapour does not contain the same harmful substances as cigarette smoke. 

Some 3million Britons use vapes at present, more than double the 700,000 nearly a decade ago.

For comparison there are currently 15million smokers in the UK, down a quarter on a decade ago. 

Dr Urvish Patel, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine who was involved in the study, warned that e-cigarettes could have hidden health risks. 

He said: ‘The public needs to know that the safety of e-cigarettes has not been proved [sic] to be safe.

‘[They] should not be considered as an alternative to traditional smoking especially among people with existing risk factors such as history of heart attack, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.’

There was no placebo group in the study, meaning the scientists could not establish whether vapers were more or less likely to suffer strokes than the general population.

There was also no data on the type and severity of strokes suffered, and on whether participants had other conditions such as high blood pressure that made the condition more likely. 

Dr Leonie Brose, a smoking expert at King’s College London who was not involved in the research, said the study did not check whether vapers had previously smoked.

She said: ‘The survey they used is a cross-sectional survey. This means respondents had a stroke in the past (maybe years before they completed the survey) and were using e-cigarettes or smoking at the time of the survey.

‘At least some of the strokes would therefore have occurred before e-cigarette use. The strokes then could not have been caused or made more likely by e-cigarettes.’

Emeritus Professor John Britton, an epidemiologist at Nottingham University, pointed out that smokers overall were much more likely to suffer a stroke than vapers.

The US has looser regulations on vapes, and saw almost 2,000 people hospitalised in 2019 after purchasing an un-regulated vaping product.

In comparison, the UK has tight regulations. Like the US, it currently does not permit them to be sold as medical products.

But England may soon become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit. 

Manufacturers are to be able to submit the devices to regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to undergo the same ‘approvals process’ as other medicines.

This means they could be licensed as a medical product and prescribed by doctors on a case-by-case basis to those that want to quit smoking.

Currently, the NHS advises that vaping can help smokers — though it is not available on prescription.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said when the plans were announced last month that it was opening the door to prescribing the devices on the NHS.

He added it had the ‘potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background’.

The research will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions this Saturday. 

There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year, which trigger more than 38,000 fatalities. In the US, there are 795,000 annually. 

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