Dangers of Vaping and E-Cigarettes

What does it mean to vape?

E-cigarettes, vapes, vape or hookah pens, e-pipes and other vaping products are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale, or vape, aerosolized liquid (e-juice). California law now prohibits the use of these products indoors where cigarette use is prohibited, including bars and restaurants. E-cigarettes recently surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, so it is critical that public health officials and the general public understand the potential risks of using them.

Public Health Threat

Nearly 6 percent of adults currently use some form of e-cigarette, compared to less than 2 percent in 2010; and, nearly 13 percent of adults age 18-24 use e-cigarettes. The use of multiple tobacco products - dual-use - is common: 37 percent of adult e-cigarette users also use cigarettes.

Similar to smoke and secondhand smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products, aerosol from e-cigarettes (often called vapor) contains harmful and potentially harmful constituents, such as ultrafine particles, heavy metals like nickel, tin, lead, and other cancer-causing chemicals. Exposure to aerosol may be a trigger for both kids and adults with breathing problems, such as asthma, increasing their risk of severe asthma attacks.

E-cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use–Associated Lung Injuries (EVALI)

Thousands of possible cases of EVALI have arisen in the United States alone, with many previously healthy young people developing lung failure and requiring placement on mechanical ventilation (life support).  Several of these people have died. Recent research suggests that all patients that have been diagnosed with EVALI reported vaping or using e-cigarettes. Many have acknowledged the recent use of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)-containing products while speaking to healthcare personnel or in follow-up interviews by health department staff. Symptoms of EVALI include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea, with some cases progressing to respiratory failure. Patients experience long hospitalization lasting several weeks, with much of it in intensive care. It is now crucial for physicians and parents to communicate the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes to youth.

Vaping and Youth

Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. As the brain is still developing until about age 25, youth and young adult exposure to nicotine can lead to addiction and disrupt attention and learning. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. Recent evidence suggests that, compared to youth who have never used them, youth who have tried e-cigarettes are much more likely to start smoking in the future. E-Cigarettes are currently available in both fruit and candy-flavored products that appeal to youth. They are also available for purchase online, making it easier than ever before to take up smoking. 

E-cigarettes are not FDA-approved smoking quitting aids, and they are not proven to help people quit.

Additional Resources

Visit our vaping infographic page about talking to your children about the dangers.