London – Official promotion of e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking is creating a vaping epidemic that could see a generation addicted to nicotine, experts warn.
A team of international cardiologists has published evidence the devices can damage the brain, heart, blood vessels and lungs – and calls for a ban.
It is just the latest warning about the safety of e-cigs – and mounts pressure on the medical establishment, which continues to promote them as useful tools for stopping smoking.
The study comes after Ewan Fisher, 19, from Nottingham, told how he almost died from serious respiratory failure after vaping.
The scientists said there is little evidence to support claims e-cigarettes help smokers quit.
Lead researcher Professor Thomas Munzel said: “The e-cigarette epidemic in the US and Europe, in particular among our youth, is causing a huge generation of nicotine-addicted people who are being endangered by encouragement to switch from tobacco.”
The team, whose findings are published in the European Heart Journal, examined the effect of e-cig vapor on blood flow and stiffness in the main artery in the upper arm of 20 smokers before they vaped, and 15 minutes after.
Mice were also exposed to vapor for 20 minutes six times a day. The team found vaping just once increased heart rates and caused arteries to stiffen. In the mice, blood vessels, including in the lungs and brain, were damaged.
The scientists believe a toxin in the vapor turns an enzyme called NOX-2 from being protective to damaging. Professor Munzel, of the University Medical Centre in Mainz, Germany, said: “Our data may indicate e-cigarettes’ perceived safety is not warranted.”
Deborah Arnott, of the anti-smoking charity Ash, said: “While vaping isn’t risk-free, smoking kills over 250 people a day in the UK. Vapers shouldn’t be scared back to smoking – that would be a real public health tragedy.”