UTSA scholars to study health effects of electronic cigarettes

e-cigarette

E-cigarette

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(July 11, 2013) -- Smokers increasingly are turning to electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to soothe their nicotine cravings without the harmful side effects. But, how safe are they?

Scholars William Cooke and Donovan Fogt have received $30,000 in seed funding from UTSA to find out. The UTSA kinesiologists will team up with Assistant Professor Caroline Rickards at the University of North Texas Health Science Center to gather baseline data about the effects of e-cigarettes on the body's basic physiological health.

For six years, e-cigarettes have been aggressively marketed as an alternative for smokers who want to decrease their risk of the serious health problems associated with conventional cigarette smoking. Instead of inhaling a cigarette's nicotine and carbon monoxide, e-cigarette users inhale vaporized pure nicotine. But, very little research has been done about the effects of inhaling vaporized nicotine.

Over the next year, the researchers will study the effects that inhaling vaporized nicotine has on a person's heart rate, blood pressure, resting metabolic rate, physical work capacity and brain blood flow.

UTSA students pursuing kinesiology and health-related careers will conduct research alongside the scholars, giving them the opportunity to learn quantitative research methods in preparation for their careers in academia and health-related professions.

The scholars will work under the hypothesis that vaporized nicotine stimulates the human nervous system in ways that could seriously impact daily living. They believe that the inhalation of vaporized nicotine has the potential to increase a person's resting metabolism, making exercise problematic. They also believe it prevents the cardiovascular system from properly regulating arterial pressure and decreases the brain's ability to regulate blood flow.

"E-cigarettes are perceived as safer than actual smoking, and some people even perceive them to be an attractive weight-loss tool," said Fogt. "This study aims to quantify the metabolic consequences of inhaling vaporized nicotine."

Cooke added, "This study is an important first step to understanding the physiological complications and public health concerns surrounding the use of e-cigarettes. 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."

If this study confirms the scholars' hypotheses, additional research will be needed to further understand the immediate effects of vaporized nicotine, the impact of dosage and age on an e-cigarette user's health and the long-term effects of e-cigarettes."

The UTSA Department of Health and Kinesiology serves more than 1,000 students in four undergraduate degree programs, a minor and a master's program. Its faculty specializes in community health, school health, nutrition, exercise physiology, exercise and sport psychology, pedagogy, adaptive/developmental physical education, biomechanics, motor learning and control, and evaluation and assessment. Research conducted in the department focuses on the prevention and treatment of risks for diseases and promotion of healthy growth and living across lifespan.

>> Learn more about the UTSA Department of Health and Kinesiology.