Vaping has captured the hearts and lungs of high schoolers, pack-a-day smokers, and everyone in-between, but let’s clear the air – vaping carries some potentially serious health risks.

The seemingly innocuous puffs of vaper are no longer viewed as a harmless alternative to combustible tobacco products; their addictive nature and dubious list of ingredients have public health officials both startled and perplexed.

Vaping devices produce an aerosol by heating liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and a mix of other chemicals; and although they generally contain fewer toxic chemicals than the hazardous cocktail of 7,000 chemicals found in regular cigarette smoke, the cloud of aerosol may still contain harmful substances including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.

Joanna Cohen, PhD, director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted in a recent Q&A that there’s no way to know if your vaping cartridge is safe.

Vaping is not safe. The propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin that form the basis of e-liquids are generally regarded as safe for ingestion, but we do not yet know the effects when inhaled. The Surgeon General has concluded that nicotine in e-cigarettes can harm the developing brain. Little is known about inhaling flavor chemicals, but some ingredients used as flavorants are clearly harmful when inhaled.”

And although vaping and e-cigarettes are considered a better alternative to combustible tobacco products, they are far from ideal.

According to Dr. Cohen, “The only group who should use vaping products are cigarette smokers who are trying to quit smoking, or former smokers who have successfully switched to vaping. If you fully switched and no longer smoke cigarettes, congratulations! Now, it’s important to try to get off vaping products as well because these products are not safe.”

Potential Health Effects of Using E-Cigarettes:

  • Nicotine is highly addictive, toxic to developing fetuses, and can harm adolescent brain development which continues into the early to mid-20s.
  • Besides nicotine, vape and e-cigarette aerosol can contain substances that harm the body such as cancer-causing chemicals and microscopic particles that can damage the lungs.
  • Defective e-cigarette batteries and delivery mechanisms can catch fire or lead to acute nicotine exposure.

Because of both the certain and uncertain risks associated with vaping, it’s best to quit the practice as soon as possible. Use the Quit and Stay Quit Monday Tool Kit to slowly wean yourself off e-cigarettes and vaping.