Electronic cigarettes may not be the healthy alternative smokers think they are, according to new research conducted on laboratory mice.
E-cigarettes and vaporizers have become extremely popular in the U.S. They’re battery operated and can be easily charged using a wall charger or USB device, and many people believe they’re less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes.
But according to researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, e-cigarettes may not be the downside-free solution that smokers have been searching for. They contain some of the same harmful chemicals used in tobacco cigarettes, and they may even weaken the immune system in the lungs.
“We have observed that [e-cigarettes] increase the susceptibility to respiratory infections in the mouse models,” Shyam Biswal, a professor of environmental health sciences and the study’s senior author said in a release.
Some of the mice in the study were exposed to the scaled-down equivalent of a human’s exposure to e-cigarette vapor over the course of two weeks, while the control group was exposed to air.
Both groups were then exposed to virus-causing bacteria. The e-cigarette group were much more likely to display weakened immune responses, and some died.
“This warrants further study in susceptible individuals, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients who have switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes or to new users of e-cigarettes who may have never used cigarettes,” Biswal added.
The study specified that though animal tests may not apply to humans, they still raise the possibility that e-cigarette smokers may be more susceptible to lung infections. The study could result in increased regulations for e-cigarettes in the future.
The study, which was published on Feb. 4 in PLoS One, also discovered that the actual nicotine intake from e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes is about the same, even though the nicotine content was lower in e-cigarettes.