E-cigarettes are as bad for you as SMOKING, a new study has claimed

E-cigarettes are as bad for your heart as smoking, a new study shows.

The findings sparked warnings from leading experts that the devices may be ‘far more dangerous than people realise’.

More than two million Brits use e-cigarettes.

The research found that they stiffen the heart’s vital aorta artery, damaging it like regular cigarettes.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation and one of Britain’s most senior doctors, said: “The findings show that e-cigarettes have a similar effect to normal cigarettes on the stiffness of the main blood vessel in the body.”

He said the discovery was ‘important’ and warned it ‘shows that e-cigarettes cannot be assumed to be risk free’.

Getty A smoker

GPs will soon be able to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit

The research was revealed at the world’s biggest heart conference in Rome.

It comes amid growing controversy over the safety of e-cigarettes.

UK public health chiefs last year officially endorsed e-cigarettes, claiming they were 95% safer than regular cigarettes.

And GPs will soon be able prescribe them alongside nicotine patches and gum to help people quit.

But it later emerged that Public Health England’s claims relied on a study conducted by scientists in the pay of the e-cigarette industry.

And there is growing evidence that chemicals released by the devices cause long-term harm including lung damage, heart complications, cancer and stillbirth in pregnant women.

Now researchers at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology have warned that Public Health England’s recommendation of e-cigarettes to Brits was premature.

They added that they would not encourage the use of the devices.

Lead researcher Professor Charalambos Vlachopoulos, of the University of Athens Medical School, said: “We measured aortic stiffness. If the aorta is stiff you multiply your risk of dying, either from heart diseases or from other causes.”

Professor Vlachopoulos said: “The aorta is like a balloon next to the heart. The more stiff the balloon is, the more difficult for the heart to pump.

And he slammed Public Health England’s controversial stance on e-cigarettes.

He said: “I wouldn’t recommend them now as a method to give up smoking.

“I think the UK has rushed into adopting this method.”

Professor Robert West, from University College London, one of Britain’s leading experts in quitting smoking, said it was not clear whether the effects were simply a short-term effect caused by nicotine, or a sign of something more concerning.

He added: “It would certainly be fair to say the study shows that electronic cigarettes are not without any risk – the critical question is how much risk?”

However, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, a group who have repeatedly backed the use of e-cigarettes, disagreed with the British Heart Foundation’s take on the study. She said it did ‘not prove that e-cigarettes are as hazardous as smoking’.

Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at Public Health England, vowed the body would review the new research.

But she insisted: “Vaping carries a fraction of the risk of smoking yet many smokers are still not aware, which could be keeping people smoking rather than switching to a much less harmful alternative.”

Tom Pruen, of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, said: “Lots of things have short-term effects on aortic stiffness” and that the study showed nothing new.

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