Does Vaping Cause High Blood Pressure?

/ 6 min read

Does Vaping Cause High Blood Pressure?

Experts are in agreement that more long-term data is needed before we can draw accurate conclusions about vaping’s potential health impacts, particularly regarding issues like cancer and sexual health. More evidence is building however, and we are beginning to get a better picture of the full scope of influences vaping can have on our bodies.

One of the biggest issues with drawing health-based conclusions at this stage, is the fact that many vapers used in the studies to date, are ex-smokers. This has been highlighted as a problem, as there is a potential for health issues identified in vapers may simply be a lingering impact of the smoking the participant used to practice.

As almost all vapers are ex-smokers, unsurprising considering the intent of vaping as an alternative to cigarettes. This is an issue that is not likely to go away, so until studies can establish a way to draw more accurate claims about vaping specifically, our understanding of its impacts must always be taken with a pinch of salt.

There are certain areas however where we can be a little more confident. Nicotine for example, is an ingredient shared by both cigarettes and vapes, and its impact on the human body is well understood by experts.

With this in mind, read on as we explore the relationship between nicotine vaping and high blood pressure, also called ‘hypertension’.

Blood pressure diagram

What is Hypertension?

According to Healthline, hypertension is an often ‘silent’ condition which presents few, if any symptoms. It can either last for short bursts, or for prolonged periods; this is determined by the cause.

According to the NHS, it’s not always clear what could be causing high blood pressure, as it can be triggered by multiple factors. Listed on the NHS site, you could be more at risk of having high blood pressure if you:

  • are overweight
  • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • do not do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke
  • do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
  • are over 65
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • are of black African or black Caribbean descent
  • live in a deprived area

The NHS tells us that the damage done to our blood vessels as a result of prolonged bouts of hypertension can lead to a number of more severe conditions including:

  • heart disease
  • strokes
  • kidney problems

There are a few options for treatment, but first and foremost the NHS recommends making lifestyle choices where possible to help prevent high blood pressure to begin with.

Smoking, Nicotine, & High Blood Pressure

The relationship between smoking and blood pressure has been well understood for some time. According to one study published to the National Institutes of Health (NIH USA), “Smoking a cigarette acutely increases blood pressure, an effect mediated by nicotine.”

The study goes on to explain that the act of smoking a cigarette causes a significant, yet temporary increase in blood pressure, with measurements taken following a short abstinence from smoking showing that blood pressure does decrease once the effects of nicotine have left the body.

They do note however that the routine associated with the act of smoking typically leads to several of these sharp spikes in blood pressure occurring throughout an average day, which can lead to more permanent issues triggered by prolonged hypertension.

The study says: “Progression of chronic hypertension to accelerated or malignant hypertension is more common in smokers. Nicotine could contribute to this progression by aggravating vasoconstriction, although other tobacco smoke toxins are also likely to be contributing to progressive vascular injury.”

In layman’s terms this tells us that nicotine’s impact as a vasoconstrictor (shrinking blood vessels which increases blood pressure) can contribute, alongside the other chemicals in cigarette smoke, to more severe conditions brought about by prolonged hypertension.

A further study also from the NIH confirms the relationship between high blood pressure and nicotine:

“It has been known for a long time that blood pressure and heart rate increase during smoking. These effects are associated specifically with nicotine. The rise in blood pressure is due both to an increase in cardiac output and in total peripheral vascular resistance.”

Interestingly, the study also noted that while the act of smoking causes spikes in blood pressure, stopping smoking can also have the same effect as a part of withdrawal, describing the effect as a “paradox”.

Doctor giving a patient blood pressure test

Can Vaping Affect Blood Pressure Like Smoking?

As we mentioned earlier, quality data around vaping’s health impacts is still thin on the ground, which means we cannot yet fully assess all the risks. Public Health England famously stated that vaping products were an estimated 95% less harmful than cigarettes, with much of that difference being attributed to the lack of almost all the harmful by-products found in cigarette smoke vs e-cig vapour.

Noting the above NIH study’s comment about these harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke adding to the risk of high blood pressure, it is conceivable that there could be a reduced risk from vaping as these chemicals are not present. With that said, vapes still contain nicotine, which has been identified above as a chief culprit in causing hypertension, meaning the risk could be comparable.

There has been one study published in the Journal of Hypertension, which explores the impact of vaping on the blood pressure of people already suffering from hypertension. It found that:

“EC vaping was accompanied by significant increase blood pressure, which lasted about 30 minutes. Compared to placebo the EC smoking increased systolic BP by 9,6 ± 4,1 mmHg, diastolic BP by 7.1 ± 3.9 mmHg and heart rate by 16,4 ± 13 beat per minute. All the differences resulted statistically significant (Student's t test P < 0.05).”

Concluding that:

“Under these experimental conditions, EC smoking caused a statistically significant increase in BP and HR in hypertensive patients. This effect seems also clinically relevant since the duration of BP increase was relatively long (28 minutes) and the daily number of inhalations, in EC smokers, is usually high (> 20).”

If we take this data at face value then it appears that vaping can indeed cause spikes in blood pressure, just like cigarettes, with nicotine being the main reason for this.

The issue remains however that the subjects of this trial already had chronic hypertension, meaning they were already dealing with high blood pressure triggered by other factors. This does not diminish the fact that vaping caused it to spike further, however it does make it difficult to draw an accurate conclusion about vaping’s impact by itself.

Speak to Your GP

Ultimately as the data here shows, our understanding of vaping’s impact on blood pressure is limited. With this being the case, if you are considering vaping or have concerns about your own blood pressure, please immediately speak to your GP – they will give you proper guidance and help you find an alternative to smoking that works with your health needs.


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