E-Cigarettes: The Basics

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What are e-cigarettes?

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. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.

  • Some e-cigarettes 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 known by many different names. They 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.”

What are the risks?

  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine- the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products

  • E-cigarettes can also contain

    • heavy metals (lead, nickel, tin)

    • volatile organic compounds

    • cancer-causing agents

    • illicit substances

    • ultra-fine particles

  • Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control

  • Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs

  • Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, it is not just water vapor

  • 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

  • Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused some fired and explosions, a few of which have resulted in serious injuries

  • Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes