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Death & Disease

Are e-cigarettes dangerous?

Published Apr 11, 2022
flavored nicotine products

Yes, and the tobacco industry doesn’t want you to think so. They’re marketed as being a “safer” and “healthier” alternative to traditional cigarettes, but more and more research continues to arise that shows the short- and long-term effects of vaping. Below is information to help protect you and your loved ones.

What are e-cigarettes? E-cigarettes are devices that use a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution (“e-liquid”). The heated e-liquid creates an aerosol that is breathed into the lungs. They come in all shapes and sizes and go by other names such as e-cigs, vaping devices, hookah pens, vape pens, or mods. Some can only be used once, while others can be refilled. Others have a tank that may hold large amounts of e-liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. E-cigarettes are also used to vape other substances like marijuana and hash oil. Many of them do not look like traditional cigarettes, like Juul, Puff Bars, and Phix which are designed to look like a flash drive or tech device.

Why are they dangerous? E-cigarettes contain nicotine and chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, or other health problems.1 The e-liquids themselves are dangerous. Their sweet, fruity flavors appeal to children who may taste or drink the e-liquids, which are poisonous if swallowed, and are harmful if the liquid gets on the skin or in the eyes.2

Aren’t they safer than tobacco cigarettes? E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol, not water vapor, which is a mixture of chemicals and small particles that can hurt the lungs just like cigarette smoke.34 There is not currently enough research on e-cigarettes to prove they are a safer alternative to cigarettes. E-cigarettes are just as addictive as regular cigarettes.5

Are they safe to use indoors? E-cigarettes pollute the air with tiny particles that get trapped in the lungs. Just like regular cigarettes, secondhand vape from e-cigarettes may hurt others.34

Do e-cigarettes help smokers quit? Studies show that e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking cigarettes.67 Instead, many people end up using both products.8 Over-the-counter and prescription medicines are widely available and very effective at helping people quit smoking cigarettes. Additionally, Kick It California provides free counseling support in six languages at 1-800-300-8086 and KickItCA.org.

How do I protect my family and friends?

  • Nicotine is a poison. Never leave e-cigarettes or e-liquids where children can get them. Immediately call the California Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 if any e-liquid is swallowed, gets on the skin, or in the eyes.
  • Never allow the use of e-cigarettes in your home. Secondhand vape pollutes the air and is harmful to you and your family.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and teens should never use e-cigarettes or be exposed to the aerosol due to the harm nicotine may cause to brain development.
  • Support policies that do not allow e-cigarettes to be used indoors and where children are present.
  • If you use e-cigarettes or other tobacco products, visit KickItCa.org or call for free help with quitting: 1-800-300-8086.
  1. Glantz S. 9 chemicals identified so far in e-cig vapor that are on the California Prop 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins [blog post]. tobacco.ucsf.edu. Published July 20, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2019.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nicotine: Systemic agent. cdc.gov. Page reviewed May 12, 2011. Accessed April 16, 2019.
  3. Czogala J, Goniewicz ML, Fidelus B, Zielinska-Danch W, Travers MJ, Sobczak A. Secondhand exposure to vapors from electronic cigarettes. Nicotine Tob Res. 2013;16(6):655–662. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt203.
  4. Williams M, Villarreal A, Bozhilov K, Lin S, Talbot P. Metal and silicate particles including nanoparticles are present in electronic cigarette cartomizer fluid and aerosol. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e57987. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057987.
  5. American Cancer Society. What do we know about e-cigarettes? cancer.org. Revised November 21, 2018. Accessed April 17, 2019.
  6. Weaver SR, Huang J, Pechacek TF, Heath JW, Ashley DL, Eriksen MP. Are electronic nicotine delivery systems helping cigarette smokers quit? Evidence from a prospective cohort study of U.S. adult smokers, 2015-2016. PLoS One. 2018;13(7):e0198047. Published 2018 Jul 9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0198047.
  7. Popova L, Ling PM. Alternative tobacco product use and smoking cessation: a national study. Am J Public Health. 2013;103(5):923–930. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301070.
  8. Martínez Ú, Martínez-Loredo V, Simmons VN et al. How Does Smoking and Nicotine Dependence Change after Onset of Vaping? A Retrospective Analysis of Dual Users. Nicotine Tob Res. 2019. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntz043.

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