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What is vaping?

Electronic cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into a vapor that you inhale. “Vaping” poses significant health risks. Adults and young people who vape are more likely to develop heart and lung disease and become addicted to nicotine.

Vaping devices heat a cocktail of chemicals, flavorings and nicotine from tobacco that you can breathe in. Most devices are battery-powered and contain a heating element and a container for liquid, sometimes called vape juice or e-liquid.

The heating process turns the chemical cocktail into a fine mist that is inhaled. Manufacturers create e-cigarettes in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can look like real cigarettes, pipes, USB flash drives, ink pens or other everyday items. People often call the devices vape pens, e-cigs, e-hookahs or mods. 


What chemicals are in e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes have been sold for about a decade. The chemicals used in e-cigarettes vary widely between manufacturers, so the exact list of ingredients may differ between brands. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found most contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical that harms the brain development of adolescents and young adults.

The vapor also contains other chemicals that cause long-term damage to the lungs. These include: 

  • Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical shown to cause lung disease.
  • Cancer-causing chemicals like acrolein, an herbicide primarily used to kill weeds.
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.
  • Organic compounds called aldehydes, which are known to cause lung and heart disease.
  • Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, which are toxic to cells.

Vape pens harm more than the people who use e-cigarettes. The vapor poses a danger to anyone who inhales it secondhand, including infants and young children, pregnant women and people with lung conditions.


What health dangers are caused by vaping?

Inhaling nicotine is the most significant risk of e-cigarettes. While nicotine produces a temporary feeling of relaxation and may improve your mood, it negatively impacts all the body’s systems, causing:

  • Headaches
  • Heart rhythm changes
  • High blood pressure
  • Indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors

Nicotine is especially dangerous for teens and young adults whose brains have not completely developed. The chemical harms the parts of the brain responsible for attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Early nicotine use may also increase the risk of addiction to other drugs in the future.

Along with nicotine dangers, vaping can cause lung injuries. In February 2020, the CDC confirmed 2,807 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injuries, including 68 deaths. 


How do I quit vaping?

Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) to find local resources to help quit smoking or vaping. You can also talk to your primary care physician (PCP) about FDA-approved treatments and counseling.

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health PCP near you.

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