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The cardiovascular effects of electronic cigarettes: A systematic review of experimental studies

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Background: Smoking is responsible for substantial cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Electronic cigarettes have been advocated as a means to reduce this disease burden; by reducing exposure to harmful substances in smokers who are unable to quit. Concerns have been raised however, about cardiovascular effects of their use, with inhalants containing carbonyls and fine particulate matter. We systematically reviewed experimental studies of in vitro, animal, and human cardiovascular effects associated with electronic cigarette use. Methods: A literature search was conducted using Ovid MEDLINE & Embase databases, identifying experimental studies investigating cardiovascular effects of electronic cigarette use. Subsequently, Cochrane Risk of Bias tools were used to assess study quality. Any differences in outcomes by conflict of interest and risk of bias status were sought. Results: 38 studies were included, investigating animals (n=6), humans (n=24) and human cardiovascular cells in vitro (n=8). 74.3% of studies found potentially harmful effects. Increased sympathetic nerve activity was observed in human studies, whilst platelet haemostatic processes, reactive oxygen species production and endothelial dysfunction were reported across all study types. Studies with conflicts of interest or median-high risk of bias were less likely to identify potentially harmful effects (p=0.0007, p=0.04 respectively). Discussion: Most studies suggest potential for cardiovascular harm from electronic cigarette use, through mechanisms that increase risk of thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Notably, studies with conflicts of interest are significantly less likely to identify concerning cardiovascular effects. Included studies examine healthy, adult participants, limiting generalisation to potential high-risk groups including individuals with established cardiovascular disease or young, non-smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105770
JournalPreventive Medicine
Pages (from-to)105770
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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