Nicotine may damage arteries

Other chemicals in cigarettes may not be to blame

By Tina Hesman Saey, 15:57 PM December 17, 2013

NEW ORLEANS — Even smokeless cigarettes may cause damage that can lead to hardening of the arteries, a new study implies.

Vascular smooth muscle cells wrap around blood vessels and help control blood flow and pressure. But inflammation and chemicals, such as those found in cigarette smoke, can turn the cells into miniature drills that chew through connective tissue, allowing muscle cells to burrow into blood vessels. Once inside, the cells and other debris clump into artery-clogging plaques.

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