London, Feb 3: E-cigarettes, touted as an alternative for smokers trying to kick the butt, may not be as harmless as believed, warns a new study which found that regular vapers may be at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The study included 23 habitual e-cigarette users - who smoked most days for at least one year - and 19 non-users between the ages of 21 and 45 years.
Researchers found that habitual e-cigarette users were more likely than non-users to have increased cardiac sympathetic activity (increased adrenaline levels in the heart) and increased oxidative stress - known mechanisms by which tobacco cigarettes increase cardiovascular risk.
"Studies like this give further confirmation that e-cigarettes are not harmless," said Professor Joep Perk from the European Society of Cardiology in France.
"There are studies also showing that people that start with e-cigarettes have a tendency to become persistent tobacco cigarette smokers as well," he said.
The researchers said the findings "have critical implications for the long-term cardiac risks associated with habitual e-cigarette use" and "mandate a re-examination of aerosolised nicotine and its metabolites."
They added that causality could not be confirmed on the basis of this single, small study, and that further research into the potential adverse cardiovascular health effects of e-cigarettes is warranted.
"Nicotine stimulates the central nervous system, so it is not at all surprising that people continuously taking nicotine get this sympathetic stimulation," said Perk.
"This then might lead to irregular heartbeat and raised blood pressure, and probably has long-term deleterious effects on the blood vessel walls," Perk added.
"It is too large a step to say that these negative effects are proof that people are going to die early because they used e-cigarettes," he said.