What Are E-Cigarettes?
- E-cigarettes come in all shapes and sizes and are usually made up of a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold liquid called “e-juice”.
- E-cigarettes can be called many different names including “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”
- In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes are also often used to deliver marijuana and other drugs.
The main component of e-cigarettes is the e-liquid contained in cartridges or tanks. To create an e-liquid, nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a base (usually propylene glycol), and may also include flavorings, colorings and other chemicals (such as formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible lung damage). Nicotine is the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Flavorings are a big reason why e-cigarettes have gotten so popular and help contribute to the palatability of these products. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating this e-liquid which users then inhale into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air, creating a second-hand vape effect.
E-cigarettes and kids: A youth epidemic
Why are e-cigarettes appealing to kids?
- They come in over 15,000 flavors, including fruit and candy flavors.
- The devices look similar to products youth already use, like flash-drives, fidget-spinners, and highlighters, making them easy to hide in plain sight.
- The belief that e-cigarettes are a “safer” product.
- There is a very high concentration of nicotine (the addictive substance in tobacco) used in the pod mod systems keeping kids coming back for more.
- See Minnesotans for a Smokefree Generation e-cigarette factsheet for more information.
*35% of high school and middle school students in Minnesota have tried an e-cigarette.
Health Effects of E-cigarettes
Because e-cigarettes are a newer product, we are still learning the long-term consequences of their use.
What we do know:
- Nicotine contained in e-cigarettes is highly addictive.
- E-cigarette aerosol contains cancer-causing chemicals.
- Nicotine can harm brain development.
- Nicotine is harmful to the developing fetus.
- Youth e-cigarette use is associated with a higher likelihood of going on to use other tobacco products, especially conventional cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes can cause unintended injuries such as battery explosions and acute nicotine toxicity.
E-Cigarettes and Adult who smoke
E-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA as a tobacco dependence treatment device, and it is recommended that people that are trying to quit smoking use FDA approved tobacco dependence medications. One of the main reasons that e-cigarettes are ineffective in assisting adults in quitting smoking is that e-liquids are not regulated by the FDA, and therefore can have extremely different levels of nicotine in them than a label may claim. This also means that nicotine concentrations can vary greatly between brands and even batches of e-liquid produced, making it almost impossible to try to taper down the nicotine levels. A study by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who smoke who also used e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking were less likely to quit than those who did not use e-cigarettes. Only 10.1% of people who smoke who also used e-cigarettes had quit smoking after six months compared to 26.6% of people who smoke who did not use e-cigarettes. People who use e-cigarettes to help them reduce their use of conventional cigarettes often become dual users and don’t overcome their nicotine addiction. Despite some misconceptions, the flavored e-juices available do not assist adult users in quitting tobacco and may encourage continued use.