After years of public speculation about how e-cigarettes impact our health, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) intends to find out. On August 6, Science News Wire announced that UTSA is providing $30,000 in funding to research the health effects of electronic cigarettes.
For the upcoming research study, UTSA kinesiologists will pair with Caroline Rickards, Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Together, they will work to gather some baseline data about how e-cigarettes impact the human body. Scholars William Cooke and Donovan Fogt will oversee the study and they were also the named recipients of the $30,000 funding for the project.
While e-cigarettes are heavily marketed to smokers as an alternative that is tobacco-free, critics have repeatedly complained that there just isn’t adequate research to know whether e-cigs are truly safe. For smokers who seek a healthier alternative with e-cigarettes, this research could be a ground breaking answer to the questions and criticisms launched by many in the medical community.
During the next year, the research team will study how e-cigarettes impact blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow to the brain, and physical work capacity. UTSA kinesiology students will participate in the research and get hands on experience in learning quantitative research methods.
As with any scientific research project, the UTSA team is approaching the study with an existing hypothesis. The scholars have hypothesized that inhaling e-cig vapor will stimulate the nervous system enough to increase resting metabolism, making exercise “problematic”. Additionally, they hypothesized that inhaling e-cig vapor will cause cardiovascular problems, making it difficult to properly regulate arterial pressure. Finally, they hypothesized that e-cig vapor would decrease the body’s ability to regulate blood flow to the brain.
Fogt says they hope to learn whether e-cigs are actually safer than cigarettes. He said, “E-cigarettes are perceived as safer than actual smoking, and some people even perceive them to be an attractive weight loss tool. This study aims to quantify the metabolic consequences of inhaling vaporized nicotine.”
Cooke believes the study will be helpful in learning more about how e-cigarette use impacts public health. He said, “It will also give us a better understanding of the health effects of pure nicotine, without the harmful poisons found in tobacco products, on the autonomic nervous system.”
Depending on what the study uncovers, this new research could definitely help or hinder the future of electronic cigarettes. If the team discovers that e-cigarette vapor has a negative impact on human health, it could potentially serve as more fuel for the FDA’s regulatory fires. On the other hand, if the scholars learn that e-cigarette vapor is actually relatively harmless, then people would be forced to acknowledge that instead of demanding the products be banned.
What do you expect the scholars will learn about e-cigarettes during their study? Do you believe their hypothesis will be true?