E-cigarettes have not been fully studied for safety or effectiveness and are not currently regulated by anyone.
What are they?
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) - like the e-cigarette, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol or vapor. There are currently multiple types of ENDS on the U.S. market,including: e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vape pens, e-cigars, and others.
Because they contain nicotine, ENDS may be addictive, toxic to developing fetuses, and have lasting consequences for adolescent brain development. Some ENDS may be altered by the end user to deliver other psychoactive substances such as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Thus, ENDS are not “safe,” although if used by established adult smokers as a complete substitution for cigarettes, ENDS would likely be less dangerous for the smoker to use than conventional cigarettes or other combusted (burned) tobacco products.
ENDS could cause harm to individuals and society if they:
- Lead to regular use of nicotine and/or use of cigarettes by young people or adult non-tobacco users;
- Lead to relapse among former smokers;
- Delay quitting and/or diminish the chances a smoker will quit by leading to long-term use of ENDS and cigarettes at the same time (dual use;
- Expose children and adolescents, pregnant women, and non-smokers involuntarily to aerosolized nicotine and, potentially if altered, to other psychoactive substances - the vapor contains lung irritants and particulate matter similar to that of tobacco smoke;
- Result in poisonings among users or non-users (especially children) through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of nicotine liquid on the skin; or
- Glamorize or renormalize tobacco use, including by exposing children to images of tobacco use, by triggering cravings to smoke, and by undermining enforcement of clean indoor air policies.
"E-cigarettes present a range of potential benefits and harms to individuals and society. We cannot predict the net impact of these combined benefits and harms. Thus, public health should focus on maximizing potential benefits and minimizing potential harms of ENDS. The promotion of noncombustible products is much more likely to provide public health benefits only in an environment where the appeal, accessibility, promotion, and use of cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products are being rapidly reduced. ” (The 2014 Surgeon General's Report [SGR] p. 874)
Content provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health.