Vaping (E-Cigarettes)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is vaping?

Vaping is the inhaling (breathing in) of a vapor/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 contains flavorings, nicotine, and chemicals. It does not contain tobacco. The heating of the liquid creates the vapor/aerosol which is inhaled through a mouthpiece. 

Names for vaping devices include 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 flavorings tend to have a pleasant taste and the actual vapor does not have a smell like smoking tobacco does. 

Why do people become addicted to vaping? 

Nicotine is the addictive chemical found in most vaping liquids. Nicotine produces a pleasing effect in your brain – temporarily. The more vaping you do, the more nicotine you get, and this makes you feel good. Stopping vaping means stopping nicotine. This causes you to have withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, poor concentration, anxiety, anger, trouble sleeping, and increased hunger/eating. It becomes a difficult cycle to stop.

How does vaping affect your health?

There are many unknowns about vaping. These include what chemicals make up vaping liquid, and what health effects they can have on the user short and long term. Nicotine is found in most vaping liquids and some contain even higher doses than you would get from a cigarette. Vaping has been linked to lung disease, asthma and heart disease. Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction which can increase the risk of addiction to tobacco. 

The vapor/aerosol can expose you to cancer-causing chemicals such as formaldehyde, harmful chemicals such as acrolein, diacetyl, flavorings, nicotine, and toxic metal particles such as chromium, nickel, and lead. When vaping, these chemicals enter your body through your lungs.  

In addition to the long-term effects of these ingredients, some users may have coughing, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness.

Serious lung illnesses and even deaths have been caused by vaping. A number of cases of severe lung illnesses and death in teens and young adults involved vaping liquid that contained 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 containing 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 results in consuming much more nicotine if they continue smoking cigarettes while vaping. Add to this the safety concerns mentioned above. There are medications and nicotine replacement products that have been shown to help people quit. It is best to talk to your provider about what you can do to help you quit. 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.  

References

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/

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