MUNICH & VIENNA -- Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes pose little threat to cardiac function reported Reuters, citing a statement from the European Society of Cardiology. The findings from the world's first clinical trial on the cardiac effects of electronic cigarettes were presented at annual the meeting of the European Society of Cardiology on August 25.
"Electronic cigarettes are not a healthy habit but they are a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes," Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens reported. "Considering the extreme hazards associated with cigarette smoking, currently available data suggest that electronic cigarettes are far less harmful and substituting tobacco with electronic cigarettes may be beneficial to health."
The small trial was conducted by Farsalinos and his team in Greece, who compared the cardiac function of 20 young smokers before and after smoking a tobacco cigarette to the cardiac function of 22 young e-cigarette smokers before and after using an e-cig for seven minutes. Whereas tobacco smokers showed "significant" heart dysfunction, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, e-cig users experienced only a minimal increase in pressure.
Because the trial was so small, Farsalinos admitted larger studies are needed to examine other possible long-term effects – something the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for.
The news has e-cigarette proponents cautiously optimistic.
"Dr. Farsalinos' study is very important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for cigarette smokers," Bill Godshall, executive director of Pittsburgh's Smokefree Pennsylvania, told Tobacco E-News. "Unfortunately, the FDA refuses to correct its false and misleading claims about e-cigarettes, and still falsely claims that all tobacco products are as harmful as cigarettes."
While the Onassis trial represents good news for e-cig supporters like Godshall, results of a University of Athens study on the short-term impact electronic cigarettes have on lung capacity were less optimistic. The European Respiratory Society, reporting from its annual meeting in Vienna, said a study found inhaling e-cig vapor resulted in an instant increase in airway resistance, making it more difficult for users to breathe normally.
"We found an immediate rise in airway resistance in our group of participants, which suggests e-cigarettes can cause immediate harm after smoking the device," said Professor Christina Gratziou, one of the study's authors. "More research is needed to understand whether this harm also has lasting effects in the long-term."
The Athens study looked at 24 smokers and eight nonsmokers, with varying degrees of lung capacity. Researchers measured airway resistance after 10 minutes of e-cig use, finding that the resulting airway resistance lasted approximately 10 minutes with nonsmokers suffering a more significant increase in airway resistance than smokers.
With only 32 participants in the University of Athens study and 42 in the Onassis study, the one fact found by both trials was the need for larger studies on electronic cigarettes.