E-cigarettes and vaping devices are still fairly new, and scientists are still learning about their long-term health effects. Here is what we know now.
What are e-cigarettes, JUULs, or “vaping”?
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol or mix of small particles in the air.
E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes, some look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Larger devices such as tank systems, or “mods,” do not look like other tobacco products.
E-cigarettes are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”
Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping” or “JUULing.”
Why Is nicotine unsafe for young adults?
Nicotine, the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, can harm the developing young adult brain.1 The brain keeps developing until about age 25.
Using nicotine, while as a young adult, can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.1
Each time a new memory is created, or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.
Using nicotine may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.1
Some e-cigarette labels do not disclose that they contain nicotine, and some e-cigarettes marketed as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.
Nicotine is highly addictive and is a health danger for pregnant adults and their developing babies.
What are the other risks of e-cigarettes and vaping devices?
Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.
Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not to inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs.1
Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused some fires and explosions, a few of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged.
Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes. Nationally, approximately 50% of calls to poison control centers for e-cigarettes are for kids 5 years of age or younger.
Aren’t e-cigarettes safer than cigarettes?
E-cigarettes expose users to fewer harmful chemicals than burned cigarettes.1 But burned cigarettes are extraordinarily dangerous, killing half of all people who smoke long-term.
The use of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, has health risks.
The CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of lung injury associated with use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
The bottom line:
E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adults who smoke and who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.
E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant adults, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
While e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people and harm others, scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping adultsquit smoking.
If you’ve never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start.