Is Vaping Safe?
Electronic cigarettes have evolved over the years from a high-wattage device that generates enormous clouds of vaper to disposable devices with no vape cloud in sight. Some companies cut the nicotine with benzoic acid to reduce irritation to the lungs and make it easier to inhale more of the vapor.
E-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) go by many names – the most common name is "e-cigarette." Still, other terms include e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, mods, and tanks. E-cigarette use among young people has skyrocketed in recent years. It remains at epidemic levels: about one in five high school students used e-cigarettes in 2020, many of whom were not smokers in the first place.
According to Truth Initiative, "Disposable e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity following the product's exemption from federal restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes, with use increasing about 1,000% (from 2.4% to 26.5%) among high school e-cigarette users and more than 400% (from 3% to 15.2%) among middle school e-cigarette users in 2020. Making up nearly a quarter of the disposable e-cigarette market in the U.S.1"
Flavors play a significant role in drawing youth and young adults to tobacco products, and 97% of youth who vape use flavored products. While the flavor ban is a step in the right direction the proposed flavor ban doesn't include disposable e-cigarettes.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and not all have the same concentration. Nicotine is highly addictive and harms brain development.
Some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine2.
Besides containing nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol that user’s breath from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including:
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease known as popcorn lung
- Volatile organic compounds
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
The aerosol that users inhale and exhale from e-cigarettes can expose both themselves and bystanders to harmful substances.
Nicotine exposure can also harm adolescent and young adult brain development, and young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
An outbreak of EVALI is associated with e-cigarette use. Tennessee Department of Health announced its first vaping-related death on October 17, 2019, and at least 57 lung injury cases are linked to e-cigarette use.
E-cigarette devices and vape liquid could cause injuries and poisoning4.
- Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions, some of which have caused severe 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 and eyes.
Some teens are using vape products to ease stress and anxiety. However, research has shown that smoking/vaping actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, so people smoke in the belief it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Vaping reduces the withdrawal symptoms but doesn’t reduce anxiety or deal with the stressors. Help your teen find safe ways to reduce stress and deal with the stressors in their life. SmokeFreeTeen offers tips for managing stress and anxiety.
E-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA as a quit smoking aid. So far, the research shows there is limited evidence that e-cigarettes are effective for helping smokers quit. There are other proven, safe, and effective methods for quitting smoking. One way to start is to talk with your doctor, nurse, or a trained quitline counselor to figure out the best strategies for you.
For more information read Two national studies that show E-cigarettes won’t help smokers quit, but they may become addicted to vaping.
For resources to help your teen quit visit the TNSTRONG Youth and Community website
helping your teen quit.
- Fact Sheet - E-Cigarettes Shaped Like Flash Drives: Information for Parents, Educators, and Health Care Providers
- Fact Sheets--E-Cigarettes and Youth
- "Disposable e-cigarette's vague new flavor names attempt to evade regulation". Truth Initiative, June 7, 2021, www.truthinitiative.org
- Goniewicz ML, Gupta R, Lee YH, et al. Nicotine levels in electronic cigarette refill solutions: a comparative analysis of products from the U.S., Korea, and Poland. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(6):583–588.
- Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html
- What are the health effects of using e-cigarettes?, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/about-e-cigarettes.html