What is vaping?
Vaping is the inhaling (breathing in) of a vapor or aerosol using a vaping device.
What is a vaping device and how does it work?
A vaping device is a battery-powered smoking device that heats a liquid until it turns into a vapor. The liquid is stored in a cartridge or reservoir pod. The liquid often has different flavors, nicotine, and chemicals. It does not have tobacco. The heating of the liquid creates the vapor/aerosol that is inhaled through a mouthpiece.
Other names for vaping devices are vapes, vape pens, electronic cigarettes, e-cigs, e-hookahs, hookah pens, mods, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). They can look like normal cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, or USB sticks. They often look like every-day items. The flavors tend to have a pleasant taste and the actual vapor does not have a smell like smoking tobacco does.
How do people become addicted to vaping?
Nicotine is the addictive chemical found in most vaping liquids. Nicotine has a pleasing effect on your brain – for a short time. The more vaping you do, the more nicotine you get, which makes you feel good. Stopping vaping means stopping nicotine. This causes you to have withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, poor concentration (having a hard time focusing), anxiety, anger, trouble sleeping, and increased hunger/eating. It is a hard cycle to stop.
How does vaping affect your health?
There are many unknowns about vaping, like what chemicals make up vaping liquid and the health effects they can have short and long term. Nicotine is found in most vaping liquids. Some have even higher doses than you would get from a cigarette. Vaping has been linked to lung disease, asthma, and heart disease. Vaping can cause nicotine addiction, which can increase the risk of addiction to tobacco.
The vapor/aerosol may have:
- Cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde.
- Harmful chemicals such as acrolein, diacetyl, flavorings, and nicotine.
- Toxic metal particles such as chromium, nickel, and lead.
When vaping, these chemicals enter your body through your lungs.
Short term effects of vaping are coughing, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness.
Serious lung illnesses and even deaths have been caused by vaping. There have been a few cases of severe lung illnesses and death in teens and young adults who vaped liquid that had THC (the psychotropic ingredient in marijuana) and vitamin E acetate, used to thicken the liquid. It is strongly suggested that if you do vape, do not use products that have THC or Vitamin E acetate.
Can vaping help you quit smoking?
While not recommended by most providers, some smokers may use vaping as an aid to quit smoking tobacco. This may work for some smokers, but for some it leads to taking in much more nicotine if they keep smoking cigarettes while vaping. This would cause risks from smoking and the safety concerns mentioned above from vaping. There are medications and nicotine replacement products that have been shown to help people quit. It is best to talk to your provider about the best plan for you. You can learn more about steps to help you quit on OncoLink.
If you have never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start.
American Cancer Society. (2020). What do we know about e-cigarettes?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Electronic Cigarettes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Smoking and Tobacco Use; Electronic Cigarettes.
Leone, F. T. et al. Initiating Pharmacologic Treatment in Tobacco-Dependent Adults. American Thoracic Society Documents. Found at: https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1164/rccm.202005-1982ST
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Vaping Devices (Electronic Cigarettes) Drug Facts. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/vaping-devices-electronic-cigarettes
Nicotine Dependence. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nicotine-dependence/symptoms-causes/syc-20351584
The Real Cost of Tobacco. https://therealcost.betobaccofree.hhs.gov/