Dr. Michael Siegel wrote a funny blog about Glantz and his trumpeting of the letter, reminding us that many things besides nicotine cause the aorta and other blood vessels to stiffen. Caffeine, exercise, and fear can all have a similar effect on the aorta to nicotine’s.
“Sadly for my students, taking an exam has also been shown to increase aortic stiffness, just like smoking,” Siegel wrote. “However no one would argue that the cardiovascular effects of taking an exam are as bad as smoking. Hopefully none of my students has read Dr. Glantz’s post because I can just see them trying to get out of my next exam by claiming that it will cause aortic stiffness and their doctor has advised them against any exposures that have adverse cardiovascular effects.”
The cardiovascular problems that often beset smokers after years of inhaling cigarette smoke aren’t caused solely by nicotine. They’re caused by inhaling smoke. Cigarette smoke contains an array of chemicals, created by combusting plant material, that wreaks havoc on the heart and blood vessels. A lifetime of inhaling cigarette smoke can’t be compared to vaping, which has no combustion products at all. And a temporary stiffening of the aorta doesn’t cause heart disease.
That should have been the end of this ridiculous story. It’s true that nicotine stiffens the aorta, as do lots of other things. People like Glantz, who want to believe the worst about vaping, read every study in the worst possible light. Responsible scientists understand that every vaping effect similar to one of the many that smoking causes is not evidence that the long-term harm is equivalent. “Where nicotine is used separately from tobacco smoke, for example in the form of NRT or smokeless tobacco, there is no significant elevated disease risk,” wrote Clive Bates.