A recent study has uncovered bad news for smokers who have become a healthier alternative to smoking.
E-cigarettes can actually be healthier than cigarette smoking.
The team of Greek scientists found that even a brief use of the equipment can cause as much or more damage as conventional smoking.
The results are particularly alarming as smokers often turn to battery-operated devices because they think they are a healthier alternative that can help them drop their smoking habits.
In experiments with mice, the researchers found that the additives in e-cigarettes, including flavors, led to pneumonia that was similar or worse than traditional cigarette consumption.
Corresponding author Dr. Constantinos Glynos said: "The observed adverse effects in the lung upon exposure of e-cigarette vapors to animal models underscore the need for further investigation of the safety and toxicity of these rapidly expanding devices worldwide."
They simulate smoking a traditional cigarette by releasing vapor derived from liquid chemicals in a refillable cartridge, typically containing propylene glycol, nicotine, and often flavors, Mirror Online reports.
Propylene glycol – a colorless and odorless additive – is found in many processed foods and beverages. It is also used as a solvent in a number of medicines.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular, show that e-cigs and refills are not well regulated – and their long-term health effects are unknown.
Thus, the researchers compared several groups of mice that were given full-body exposure to various chemical combinations four times a day, with each session separated by 30-minute smoke-free intervals.
Dr. Glynos said, "Electronic cigarettes are being promoted as a less harmful nicotine delivery system or as a new smoking cessation tool.
"Our findings suggest that exposure to e-cigarette vapor can trigger inflammatory reactions and negatively impact respiratory system mechanisms.
"In many cases, the added taste of e-cigarettes exacerbated the harmful effects of e-cigarette vapor."
One group received cigarette smoke and three other E-cig vapors containing either propylene glycol, both this and nicotine or both, and a tobacco flavor. A fifth batch just got normal, healthy air and acted as a control.
Some animals in each party succumbed to the regime for three days (short term) and another four weeks (long term).
Inflammatory markers, mucus production and altered lung function increased in all three E-cig groups – after just three days.
But those who received propylene glycol alone showed less negative effects on long-term exposure.
Dr. Glynos from the University of Athens said this suggests that the additive causes only a temporary irritation, which subsides with continued use.
In addition, two inflammation-producing proteins in the flavoring group were increased.
This means that some of the many flavor components on the market may not be safe for short-term use, Dr. Glynos.
The condition of the E-Cig groups alarmed the researchers. The level of oxidative stress – damage at the cellular level – was the same or higher than that of the cigarette group for those exposed to flavors.
However, the respiratory mechanics were only impaired in mice exposed to cigarette smoke – and not after prolonged exposure to e-cigarettes.
Dr. Glynos added, "We conclude that both e-cig vaping and traditional cigarette smoking negatively impact lung biology."
His findings follow a British study earlier this year, which also indicated that steaming is more harmful than previously thought.
It turned out that some of the effects are similar to those of smokers and people with chronic lung diseases – boosting the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Birmingham University scientists extracted cells from lung samples provided by healthy nonsmokers and placed them in contact with e-cig fluid, condensed vapor, or nothing for 24 hours.
Exposure to the vapor increased the cell death and the production of inflammatory chemicals.
And the ability of cells to engulf bacteria was significantly impaired in those exposed to steam.
Public Health England says e-cigs are 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes. And they suggest that smokers should consider switching to vaping to help them stop.
But critics warn that Vaping can cause lung disease, keep people addicted to nicotine, or act as a way to quit smoking for children.
About 7.4 million Britons smoke and 2.8 million use E-Cigs, according to statistics from the Office for National Statistics.