The study is a collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds Beckett University and funded by Heart Research UK. The researchers are looking to recruit four groups of volunteers, across Sheffield and Leeds: those who currently vape but have never smoked; those who currently both vape and smoke; ex-smokers who vape; and ex-smokers who do not vape.
Vaping participants must have been doing so for at least a year – and should not have any pre-diagnosed health conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
National studies have shown that around 7% of adults in England were vaping in 2021. However, vaping is becoming very popular among younger people. In 2023, 20.5% of UK children aged 11 – 17 have tried vaping and 7.6% are vaping regularly.
Dr Antonis Stavropoulos, Reader in Sports and Exercise Physiology at Leeds Beckett University and Principal Investigator for Leeds on the study, said: “Many people who start vaping believe that it is safe for their health. We think that a shift in the way we speak about vaping is needed.
“Vaping is a very recent trend, which increased massively around lockdown. Studies so far have followed vapers over relatively short periods of time and have shown that vaping has fewer risks than smoking. However, the long-term effects of vaping are not yet clear.”
The research team will investigate and measure four main areas with the participants over the course of two years: vascular health – how the arteries respond to increases in blood flow; the classical risk factors for heart disease – including blood pressure; blood tests to look for markers of inflammation and impairments in vascular function; and a lung function test.
Professor Markos Klonizakis, Professor of Vascular and Clinical Physiology at Sheffield Hallam University and Chief Investigator on the study, said: “The tests are all non-invasive. One of the key things we will measure is blood vessel function using an ultrasound scanner. Vascular function is the first thing to be affected in the process of someone developing cardiovascular disease. We will look at this in combination with classical risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and blood tests every six months, over a period of two years to see how vaping may affect these.”
Dr Stavropoulos added: “This is a long-term study on the effects of vaping. We are not sure if and how much vaping may affect the variables we are looking at - particularly vascular function. But this information is needed for optimising policy and healthcare strategies.”
Helen Wilson, Director of Research at Heart Research UK, said: “We know that stopping smoking is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. E-cigarettes have become a very popular choice for people wanting to give up smoking but until now, little was known about their effects on the heart and blood vessels. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the study and how that could potentially influence future guidelines on vaping.”
Participants in the study will attend either Leeds Beckett University’s Headingley Campus or Sheffield Hallam University every six months for a total of five times over the course of two years, with each visit taking approximately one hour.
If you are interested in taking part, please contact Emma McIntosh firstname.lastname@example.org to take part at Sheffield Hallam University or Dr Antonis Stavropoulos email@example.com/Dr Gemma Lyall firstname.lastname@example.org to take part at Leeds Beckett.