While fewer people are smoking or starting to smoke than ever before, many are using other forms of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems. The increase in e-cigarette use (also called vaping) by kids and young people in recent years is a serious public health threat.
The battery-operated devices come in many forms and can look like conventional cigarettes, pens or even sleek tech gadgets. Users inhale and exhale a vapor-like aerosol. This way of taking in nicotine poses health risks to both users and non-users.E-cigarette promoters claim the devices can help people quit smoking. But much more evidence is needed to determine if they are an effective way to quit. Research suggests that users are more likely to continue smoking along with vaping, which is referred to as “dual use.”
Many people think vaping is less harmful than smoking. While it’s true that e-cigarette aerosol doesn’t include all the contaminants in tobacco smoke, it still isn’t safe. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
Most e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant. Some types expose users to even more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette vapor includes potentially harmful substances such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Users breathe in these toxic contaminants, and non-users nearby risk secondhand exposure.
The liquid used in e-cigarettes can be dangerous, even apart from its intended use. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the liquid through their skin or eyes.
E-cigarettes have been linked to thousands of cases of serious lung injury, some resulting in death. While the exact cause is still not confirmed, the CDC recommends that people not use e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes’ biggest threat to public health may be this: The increasing popularity of vaping may “re-normalize” smoking, which has declined for years. Reversing the hard-won gains in the global effort to curb smoking would be catastrophic. Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death and is responsible for 480,000 American lives lost each year.