Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Truth About Vaping

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Despite the fruity flavors and funky designs, e-cigarettes are far from harmless.

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Nicotine in any form can harm your brain’s development, which continues until about age 25.

The dramatic rise in vaping, particularly among young people, has created a smokescreen that suggests e-cigarettes – with their fruity flavors, sleek delivery devices, and celebrity endorsers – are a harmless alternative to traditional tobacco products. But increased scrutiny and new research has uncovered the truth about vaping: It is not safe, and its potential health risks may be far-reaching.

Plenty of Flavors and Nicotine

E-cigarettes were introduced in the U.S. in 2007, and by 2010 the product was moving into the mainstream. Framed as a safer alternative to smoking, manufacturers introduced flavorings, such as peppermint, lemon tart, and cotton candy to add to the vaping cartridges. This enticed a younger audience, many of whom believed the marketing message that e-cigarettes contain only flavoring and water, not nicotine. But research has shown that about 99% of e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, one vape pod can contain about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

The Well-Documented Dangers of Nicotine

While scientists are still learning about the long-term dangers of vaping, the health effects of nicotine are well known. Nicotine is highly addictive. Exposing your brain to this toxic chemical can increase your chance of becoming addicted to other tobacco products or other drugs.

Nicotine can also affect your brain’s development, which continues until about age 25. It can inflict damage on the parts of your brain that handle attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.

A Range of Health Risks

It’s not just nicotine that’s unsafe. The cloud that gets exhaled when using an e-cigarette isn’t just water vapor – it’s a mixture of harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and tiny particles you can inhale back into your lungs. As of February 2020, more than 2,800 people have developed serious lung injuries potentially associated with vaping activities, and 68 people have died, according to the CDC. Because of the dangers of nicotine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently raised the age from 18 to 21 to purchase any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges.

"Exposing your brain to nicotine can make it more likely you’ll become addicted to other tobacco products or other drugs."

Learn more about the nicotine cessation program.