Tobacco cigarette smoking is the most prevalent reversible risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the USA. Electronic cigarettes, invented as an alternative nicotine source for smokers unable or unwilling to stop smoking, have gained skyrocketing popularity, but their cardiovascular risk remains uncertain.
Although data recently analysed in a Cochran report do support their superior effectiveness to other forms of nicotine replacement therapies for smoking cessation, electronic cigarettes are also frequently used by non-smokers-especially high school students. There are no long-term outcome studies on the cardiovascular risk of vaping electronic cigarettes, but the effects of electronic cigarettes on known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including neurohumoural activation, oxidative stress and inflammation, endothelial function and thrombosis, have been studied.
In this review, we summarise evidence in humans that supports the notion that while electronic cigarettes may be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, they are not harmless. Additionally, the increasing popularity of vaping marijuana with its unknown cardiovascular risks as well as the outbreak in 2019 of EVALI (electronic cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury) related to bootlegged vaping products raise further concerns.
Before physicians can confidently advise their smoking patients about the role of electronic cigarettes as a means of smoking cessation to lower cardiovascular risk, improved regulation and quality control is necessary.