The safety of electronic cigarettes is a widely debated issue. The latest research demonstrates that in people who do not smoke, they can alter heart rate variability, which is an indicator of increased adrenaline levels.

Introduced in 2007, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are now “the fastest-rising tobacco product” in the United States.

There is little doubt that these devices deliver fewer carcinogens to the user, but, because they often contain nicotine, conversations regarding their safety are ongoing.

On the one hand, e-cigarettes offer a relatively safe option for nicotine-addicted individuals. On the other hand, they are seen by some as a new route to addiction with health concerns of their own.

Research published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association investigates the potential heart health implications of non-smokers using nicotine-based e-cigarettes.

Lead study author Dr. Holly Middlekauff, of the University of California, Los Angeles, says, “While e-cigarettes typically deliver fewer carcinogens than are found in the tar of tobacco cigarette smoke, they also usually deliver nicotine.”

“Many believe that the tar – not the nicotine – is what leads to increased cancer and heart attack risks. So, we asked the question, are e-cigarettes safe?”

E-cigarettes and the sympathetic response

Nicotine is not a carcinogen, but it is still a drug. It is a sympathomimetic, which is a compound that mimics the sympathetic nervous system, increasing adreline levels in circulation and raising heart rate and blood pressure. These are physiological changes associated with the “fight or flight” response.

It is this activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the influx of adrenaline that worries some medical researchers. These types of actions are, over the long-term, linked with increased cardiovascular risk.

Cardiac sympathetic nerve activity can be measured noninvasively using a heart monitor to detect…

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