Harvard Heart Letter

E-cigs: A threat to the heart?

Questions remain about this popular product

Since smoking is so bad for the heart, some people had hoped that electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) might provide a heart-healthy alternative. These battery-operated, cigarette-shaped devices give off a vapor that contains nicotine. E-cigs entice smokers by providing the pleasure of inhaled nicotine without the health risks of tobacco smoke. While e-cigs may be less damaging to health than real cigarettes are, they still present risks.


Image: Thinkstock

Electronic cigarettes may cause less harm than inhaled tobacco smoke but they still pose risks.

The promise of low-risk smoking

As a nicotine delivery system to help smokers quit or at least cut their health risk by forgoing tobacco products, e-cigs seem to make sense and theoretically could be a good thing. One study, published in the journal Addiction, showed that potential quitters who used e-cigs had a 60% higher success rate than those who used other nicotine replacement products, such as patches and gum. Other research, however, has been equivocal about the benefit of e-cigs.

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