Nicotine Information & Research

What are E-cigarettes & What is Vaping?

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs, are devices that mimic using a regular cigarette. E-cigs heat a liquid that usually contains nicotine, which produces an aerosol that is inhaled. E-cigs have different names such as JUUL, vape, vape pen, etc., and they come in many shapes and sizes. The majority of vape juice or pods contain nicotine, which is the addictive drug in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Some vaping devices can deliver nicotine at similar levels or even greater levels than traditional cigarettes.

Risks of Youth Vaping

Let’s be clear…combustible cigarettes are still the most harmful tobacco product available. While e-cigs are considered by some to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, there are still risks associated with vaping.

Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction. Nicotine addiction contributes to a loss of autonomy and personal control. E-cig users have shown a greater likelihood than non-users of smoking cigarettes in the future. Most e-cig liquids or vape juice contain nicotine, sometimes at very high levels. The appealing flavors of e-cigs may disguise the high dose of nicotine that is being inhaled. Transitioning from casual use of e-cigs to nicotine dependence can happen quickly for some youth who are experimenting with e-cigs.

E-cigs may contain many chemicals known to be toxic. Since e-cigs are still relatively new, the effect of repeatedly inhaling those chemicals remains unknown. Toxicants present in e-cigs include formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Some e-cigs contain heavy metals, like nickel, tin, and lead. We also don’t yet know the full health implications of inhaling natural or artificial flavoring ingredients in e-cigs. The FDA does have the authority to regulate e-cigs, but with so many new products coming onto the market and online sales of e-cigs, it’s hard to keep up with all the available products to ensure they are safe for the consumer.   

Nicotine & the Brain

Nicotine is an addictive substance and stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain which causes users to associate nicotine with good feelings. After repeated use, the nicotine in e-cigs changes the brain, which leads to withdrawal symptoms and craving when trying to quit. Nicotine impacts parts of the brain that play a role in attention, learning, and memory, so it’s especially important for young people to avoid e-cigs.

Can E-cigs Help People Quit Smoking?

It is possible that e-cigs may help people quit smoking cigarettes, but there is still debate about this. On one hand, e-cigs could help a smoker to quit by helping them to deal with withdrawal and craving. On the other hand, smokers may end up using both products (cigarettes and e-cigs) and become even more dependent on nicotine. There is still a lot to be learned about if e-cigs can help people quit smoking, but we know that e-cigs are NOT safe for youth, especially when that person has never been a smoker.

What Do We Know About Treatment for Vaping?

Treatment for vaping hasn’t been studied as extensively as treatment for cigarette smoking. However, there are treatments for smokers that may be of help for vapers looking to quit. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been shown to help adults quit smoking by reducing withdrawal symptoms. If prescribed by a physician, NRT may help minors under the age of 18. Counseling is also recommended for those with nicotine addiction. New text-based mobile phone programs for youth such as “This is Quitting” from the Truth Initiative are also available.


Center for Disease Control

Truth Initiative

Parents Against Vaping

Surgeon General