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The Effects of Nicotine on the Heart

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Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Almost one third of deaths are due to smoking and secondhand smoke1. While more people are aware of the harmful consequences, there are still too many in our communities inhaling these dangerous chemicals. In Hawai‘i, about 13 percent of adults and 5 percent of youth currently smoke cigarettes2.

How is Nicotine Toxic to the Heart?

Hundreds of dangerous chemicals are in cigarette smoke. The most common is nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in a tobacco plant. Nicotine causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause your arteries to narrow and constrict blood flow, leading to your heart working harder and an increased risk for heart attacks.

What are the Health Risks of Vaping?

The rapid growth and acceptance of new tobacco products known as e-cigarettes has created confusion and a resurgence of nicotine among kids. In 2019, Hawai’i youth had among the highest e-cigarette use rates in the nation, with 31 percent of high school and 18 percent of middle school students reporting regular use3.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine and flavorings in the form of an aerosol. Vaping is inhaling and exhaling it. It doesn’t contain tobacco smoke, but the fine particles from the aerosol have harmful chemicals linked to heart and respiratory diseases and cancer. The American College of Cardiology published a report that e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack compared with nonusers4.

How to Quit Smoking?

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the nation, and it is never too late to quit. It benefits your cardiovascular health and will reduce your risk of heart disease. Quitting can save your life and the lives of others around you. The American Heart Association provides five steps to quit smoking and vaping, available here. Be sure to speak to your healthcare team for additional help and resources.


1 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking-tobacco/how-smoking-and-nicotine-damage-your-body

2 https://hhsp.hawaii.gov/assets/pdf/Coordinated%20HHSP_FINAL_WEB.pdf

3 https://hhsp.hawaii.gov/assets/pdf/Coordinated%20HHSP_FINAL_WEB.pdf

4 https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2019/03/07/10/03/ecigarettes-linked-to-heart-attacks-coronary-artery-disease-and-depression

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