Louisville, Ky.-- Cancer is usually the biggest fear associated with any sort of nicotine product but it's just one of many risks you're exposing your body to, says Dr. Daniel Conklin with the University of Louisville.

 "It's surprising to realize  that more people die of cardiovascular disease due to smoking than they do to cancer," Conklin said. 

And if you think e-cigarettes offer a safer alternative you might be in for a shock.

The University of Louisville and the American Heart Association observed mice in a controlled environment for 12 weeks  to study the effects of e-cigarettes on animals and researchers are hoping the results serve as an early warning sign to people.

"There are animal models that resemble the pathology if you will the disease causing process in humans by which our blood vessels become injured and build up these plaques that can cause heart attacks,"  Dr. Conklin said. 

Using animal models is crucial when doing this type of research for a couple of reasons.

"In order to cause cardiovascular disease or heart disease it takes decades to form these particular things so animal models are in fact one of the only ways we can get the early signs, the canary in the coalmine if you will about long term consequences. These data don't exist in human population for one because e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough and used by individuals for long enough to induce diseases we know take decades to form," Dr. Conklin said. 

Troy LeBlanc owns a number of Derb E Cigs stores in Louisville and is familiar with the study but says he's never tried to promote the product as being 100 percent safe.

"I believe anything foreign that you put in your body outside of just fresh air can pose a danger to you," LeBlanc said.

He also tells his customers that  e-cigarettes are meant to serve as a means to an end and not a life-long habit.

"The point of of an e-cigarette is to start at a certain level and wean yourself off and you finally quit electronic cigarettes," LeBlanc said. 

But Dr. Conklin says despite the reason for using e cigarettes research shows you’re still causing harm to your body.

"If we can get some evidence that there is a harmful process going on early then we can save human lives."