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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Vaping Linked with Blood Vessel Damage

profile of woman, her hand holding an e-cigarette to her mouth, blowing out vapors

Vaping may carry health risks.

Photo: Tibanna79/Shutterstock

Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular during the past decade as a potentially safer alternative to smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products. But studies suggest that using e-cigarettes, or vaping, also carries health risks.

NIH-funded researchers led by Dr. Matthew Springer from the University of California, San Francisco, recently recruited 120 adults, ages 21 to 50, who were in good health, with no known heart problems. Of the 120 volunteers, 42 regularly used e-cigarettes, 28 smoked conventional cigarettes and 50 used neither.

The researchers tested blood samples from all volunteers and used ultrasound to measure blood-vessel function in a subset of people from each group. Results were published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Testing showed the blood vessels of cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users were less able to expand than the nonsmokers. The team also found signs of impaired blood vessel function when testing their blood serum. Both smokers and e-cigarette users had signs in their blood of increased inflammation and higher risk of blood clots. 

In another study published in the same journal issue, the researchers exposed rats to different components of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. These included nicotine, menthol and two gasses found in both products. 

Nicotine, the gasses and the inert particles all interfered with blood-vessel function. This suggested that a general response in the body to airway irritation, rather than exposure to any one compound, was driving a drop in blood flow. 

“We were surprised to find that there was not a single component that you could remove to stop the damaging effect of smoke or vapors on the blood vessels,” Springer says. “As long as there’s an irritant in the airway, blood vessel function may be impaired.”—adapted from NIH Research Matters

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