Electronic cigarettes generally contain nicotine and may also contain other harmful substances. There is a lot of conflicting information about them. We still have a lot to learn, but here’s what we do know.
Electronic cigarettes are known by many different names. They are often called e-cigs, e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens, tank systems or mods. They come in many different shapes and sizes – some look like a regular cigarette, others are very different. There is a lot of talk about electronic cigarettes. Some of it is true, but some of it is not.
You may have seen advertisements or stories on the Internet that say that electronic cigarettes are not harmful or are a good way to help smokers quit. However, doctors and researchers still have a lot to learn about the health effects of electronic cigarettes. Although electronic cigarettes may be less harmful than regular cigarettes, this does not mean that they are harmless.
What are electronic cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that work by heating a liquid in an aerosol that the user inhales and exhales. The electronic cigarette liquid usually contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings and other chemicals. Nicotine is the addictive drug found in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. Research shows that electronic cigarette aerosols often contain substances that can be harmful, including flavouring chemicals (such as diacetyl, which is linked to lung disease), metals (such as lead) and other cancer-causing chemicals.
Are electronic cigarettes regulated?
Companies that manufacture or sell electronic cigarettes must comply with certain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. For example, only people 18 years of age and older are allowed to purchase electronic cigarettes. Researchers are working hard to gather more information about electronic cigarettes and their use. This information may lead to additional regulations and could be useful in informing the public about what electronic cigarettes contain and the potential health risks of their use.
What are the known health risks of e-cigs?
Compared to regular cigarettes, electronic cigarettes have been on the market for a short time – about 11 years. Scientists are studying electronic cigarettes to understand how their use affects people’s health. Here’s what doctors and researchers know right now:
Electronic cigarettes generally contain nicotine. Nicotine is what makes tobacco products addictive. Be aware that some electronic cigarettes that claim to be nicotine-free contain nicotine.
Electronic cigarettes are harmful to youth, young adults and pregnant women. The nicotine in electronic cigarettes is harmful to the development of babies and can be addictive and harmful to brain development in children and young adults in their twenties. While much remains to be learned about electronic cigarettes, it is clear that the harmful health effects of electronic cigarette use mean that teens and young adults should not use them.
Electronic cigarettes may contain other harmful substances. Although electronic cigarettes generally contain fewer chemicals than regular cigarettes, they may still contain heavy metals such as lead, flavors related to lung disease, small particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, and cancer-causing chemicals. Being near a person using an electronic cigarette can expose you to the aerosol and the chemicals it contains. This is similar to second-hand smoke from regular cigarettes.
Can electronic cigarettes help people quit smoking?
Electronic cigarettes are not approved by the FDA as an aid in quitting smoking. To date, research shows that there is limited evidence that electronic cigarettes are effective in helping smokers quit. There are other proven, safe and effective methods to quit smoking. One way to get started is to talk to your doctor, nurse, or trained quit smoking counselor to determine the best strategies for you.
Many people use quit smoking medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) , in the form of a patch or gum, which doctors and other experts agree is one of the most useful tools that smokers can use to quit.