March 7 (UPI) -- People once viewed them as safe alternatives to tobacco cigarettes. Now, researchers are calling e-cigarettes a cardiovascular risk.
E-cigarette smokers had a 56 percent higher risk of heart attack and 30 percent higher risk of stroke than people who didn't smoke the product, according to a study that will be presented March 18 at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.
Coronary artery disease was also 10 percent higher and circulatory problems were up 44 percent among people who vaped. That's in addition to twice the likelihood of suffering depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders.
"Until now, little has been known about cardiovascular events relative to e-cigarette use. These data are a real wake-up call and should prompt more action and awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes," said Mohinder Vindhyal, a researcher at the University of Kansas School and the study lead author, in a news release.
E-cigarettes have exploded in popularity, with sales increased 14-fold since 2007, according to the study.
Still, research points to vaping as a way for people to safely quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. One study showed that using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool had twice the abstinence rate from tobacco cigarettes than those who used nicotine-replacement products.
Tobacco cigarette smokers face greater risks of heart attack, coronary artery disease and stroke compared with those who vape, according to the study.
"Cigarette smoking carries a much higher probability of heart attack and stroke than e-cigarettes, but that doesn't mean that vaping is safe," Vindhyal said.
But e-cigarettes may help pull some people away from smoking tobacco cigarettes and they could also act as a gateway product others who never smoked anything at all.
The average e-cigarette smoker in the study was age 33, but a growing number of younger users have started to take up the habit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that one in five in high schoolers uses e-cigarettes.
This trend could lead to poor health outcomes for younger smokers as they age.
"When the risk of heart attack increases by as much as 55 percent among e-cigarettes users compared to nonsmokers, I wouldn't want any of my patients nor my family members to vape. When we dug deeper, we found that regardless of how frequently someone uses e-cigarettes, daily or just on some days, they are still more likely to have a heart attack or coronary artery disease," Vindhyal said.