Electronic smoking devices (or vaping devices or e-cigarettes) are a fairly new tobacco product that have been sold in the U.S. for about a decade. These devices allow users to inhale an aerosol containing nicotine and other harmful substances. The aerosol is a combination of liquid with very small, solid particles mixed in, many of which are unsafe. E-cigarettes/vapes are also available in vape pens, hookah pens, e-hookahs, vaporizers, e-cigars, and e-pipes. Some devices look like pens or even USB flash drives, such as JUUL.
Are e-cigarettes less harmful than cigarettes?
There has been no FDA oversight in the production of these devices, which meanings tobacco companies are self-reporting on the ingredients. All JUUL pods contain nicotine, as well as some of the flavored pods. Manufacturers of the juices used in e-cigarettes/vapes are required to have warning labels indicating that they contain nicotine, but don’t have to disclose the ingredients so consumers do not always know what they are getting.
The important things to remember are:
What are the most common reasons youth use e-cigarettes in the U.S.?
Harmful substances such as nicotine, ultrafine particulates, flavoring chemicals, heavy metals (nickel, tin, lead), and cancer-causing agents are contained in the aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale. The inhalation of such harmful chemicals can cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease. Aerosol from these devices is like secondhand smoke. These devices do not emit water vapor.
Is the aerosol from e-cigarettes/vapes air pollution?
Yes, ultrafine particulate matter is an air pollutant that is a concern for people’s health especially their heart and lungs. These particles are in very high concentrations on heavy pollution days, which can be found in the air during wildfire season, and were found in places that allowed indoor smoking of tobacco. Now, we are finding the same levels of high concentrations in places where e-cigarettes/vapes are used.
Adults and children need to be in aerosol (“vapor”) free environments to protect themselves from the dangerous chemicals that come from e-cigarette/vape products.
Can e-cigarettes/vapes be used to quit smoking?
These devices are not an approved smoking cessation aid by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are only seven approved cessation aids: patches, gum, lozenges, inhaler, nasal spray, Chantix (varenicline), and Wellbutrin/ZZyban (bupropion).
Knowing and understanding the dangers will help you create safe breathing environments as well as inform other parents of the risks, myths, and preventive measures regarding secondhand smoke and aerosols.