Mount Holyoke prof studying effects of vaping in mice 

  • Jared Schwartzer, a behavioral neuroscientist at Mount Holyoke College. MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2019 6:24:58 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — After Gov. Charlie Baker issued a four-month ban on all vaping products in the state on Tuesday, much of the discussion was about the danger of black-market vapes and their connection to a mysterious lung illness that has affected hundreds of people and killed at least 11.

The deluge of vaping news highlights for some, however, a bigger question: How safe is legal, regulated vaping in the first place?

One local researcher, Mount Holyoke College behavioral neuroscientist Jared Schwartzer, has been studying the question of maternal vaping and how it affects offspring.

In a study under review for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Schwartzer and his team — which includes Mount Holyoke postdoctoral fellow Jamie Church and a colleague from New York University — looked at the effects that vaping had on the offspring of mice.

“Our study was very simple in the sense that we didn’t have any flavorings,” Schwartzer said. Instead, half of the pregnant mice were exposed to e-cigarette vapor with nicotine added and half without nicotine. Another control group simply breathed filtered air.

The idea, Schwartzer said, was to look at the effects of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, some of the most common ingredients in regulated vaping juice. Previously, those ingredients have been used in fog machines, for example, and the testing concerning their toxicity was based on that type of exposure.

“The difference in vaping is you’re breathing it all in,” Schwartzer said.

The study found that vaping by maternal mice led to differences in learning and memory performance, as well as brain inflammation, in the mice pups.

Asked whether that should raise any alarms, Schwartzer said it’s too early to say so. Studies need to be replicated in order to draw conclusions, he said.

More research needs to be done — which is part of the reason Schwartzer said he was uncomfortable with Baker’s ban on all vaping products.

“We need to be careful about making reactive responses to little information,” Schwartzer said. “We have to promote and encourage more data collection so we can make more informed decisions.”

Schwartzer said that amid plenty of inaction from the government, it might have been encouraging to see some step toward addressing the possible harms of vaping. But prohibition isn’t the answer, he said.

“It doesn’t work, and the negative consequences of prohibition are sometimes more lethal and disruptive than the intent,” Schwartzer said, adding that, with a ban in effect, people could be more likely to buy vapes on the black market.

Schwartzer said he would prefer to see the government be more proactive than reactive, and a big part of that is investing in research.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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