What is vaping?

Vaping is the process of using electronic nicotine delivery device systems (ENDS). These devices use batteries to turn liquids into vapor that is inhaled in to the lungs. The liquids usually have nicotine in them, along with flavorings and other substances. A vape device can also be used to heat/inhale marijuana or other substances after the initial e-liquid has been used up.

ENDS come in different shapes and sizes. Some look like regular cigarettes or cigars, while many may look like flash drives or pens. ‘Juuling®’ involves a specific brand of vape device that looks like a flash drive and comes with pods in various flavors designed to attract both young and older users. Other delivery systems include tanks and larger devices that vary by price, battery life, noise level, amount of people who would use the device, and other properties.

ENDS are known by many names, including:

  • E-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes
  • Vapes, vape boxes, vape pens
  • Tank systems
  • Hookahs, e-hookahs, hookah sticks, hookah pens
  • Mods or mechanical mods
  • Specific brand names, such as JUUL®, Blu®, Logic. Vapeleaf™, and Mig Vapor®

What is in vapes and e-cigarettes?

ENDS almost always contain nicotine.

Nicotine is a known harmful substance because:

  • It is addictive.
  • In addition to being addictive itself, nicotine may make users more vulnerable to other forms of addiction.
  • It is a toxin that crosses the placenta and so affects both fetus and mother.
  • It can harm the development of young brains. Brain development is not complete until a young person reaches the age of 26.
  • The parts of the brain most at risk are those that handle decision making, impulse control, and the ability to pay attention.
  • Nicotine addiction and substances may make anxiety, depression and other mood disorders worse, even when nicotine use was started as a way to handle these mood issues.

In addition, the aerosols might contain and/or produce other chemicals.

The vapor cloud released into the air can affect people who are next to the person vaping. Some of the devices let out small puffs, while others let out bigger clouds. Some examples of chemicals are:

  • Heavy metals, such lead, chromium, nickel, tin, manganese
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). One example is benzene, also found in exhaust fumes.
  • Propylene glycol found in antifreeze
  • Acolein (weed-killer)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ultrafine particles

Are vapes and e-cigarettes healthy?

Vaping is unhealthy. The heating element does not just deliver the desired nicotine content, but also introduces into the lungs chemicals that damage the lung. Some e-cigarettes or vapes say that they do not contain nicotine, but testing has shown that nicotine is often an ingredient and may have more nicotine than regular cigarettes at times.

Other chemicals related to using these devices have been found to be dangerous to your health. These include the flavoring chemicals, which have been linked to a serious disease often known as popcorn lung. Using these devices may be linked to asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This could lead to admission to a hospital for lung failure and the need for a machine to breathe. A number of people have died from lung disease related to vaping.

Vaping causes other problems, including:

  • Poisoning of children, who swallow the liquid nicotine.
  • Fires and explosions from defective batteries in the e-cigarette that result in serious injuries.
  • E-cigarettes and vapes are relatively new; the long-term effects are unknown.

Can e-cigarettes or vapes be used to quit smoking?

There are several products recommended by the US FDA to help people quit smoking.

  • E-cigarettes/vapes are not FDA-approved.
  • Using them trades one form of nicotine addiction for another one.
  • E-cigarettes/vapes have negative health and environmental consequences.
  • Young people and pregnant women should never use e-cigarettes/vaping as quit aids.

What should I know about children and teenagers and vaping?

  • E-cigarettes and vapes are currently the most frequently used form of tobacco/nicotine among middle school and high school students in the U.S.
  • Preteens and teens who vape are more likely to use other substances, including marijuana, cigarettes, and other drugs.
  • These young people often believe that vaping does not pose health risks.

The U.S. has new laws banning the sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to minors in stores and online. Many states have laws that allow these products to be sold only to those individuals 21 years and older, although some states still approve sales to 18-year-olds.

How can I get help to quit tobacco/nicotine or help for someone I know who is using?

If you want to quit using tobacco in any form, or if you want to help someone else quit

  • Get accurate information about the risks of nicotine.
  • Make a plan. Team up with your primary care doctor to make a plan.
  • Make goals, even if it includes reducing vaping gradually. Set a quit date.
  • Nicotine gum, patches, or other medications can help with cravings.
  • Recognize that you will have cravings and some side effects, like headaches or anxiety.
  • Things to do besides smoking or vaping for cravings are:
    • Chew sugar-free gum.
    • Drink water.
    • Keep your hands—and the rest of you—busy with hobbies or exercise.
    • Spend more time in places that will not allow you to vape or use tobacco.
    • Learn to relax with yoga, meditation, and deep or rhythmic breathing.
  • Get support to stop tobacco use and improve your chances of quitting by following these suggestions.
    • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW and speak to a counselor who has experience in helping people quit tobacco.
    • Join the mobile texting program Smokefree TXT by texting QUIT to 47848 on your mobile phone. You can also sign up online at https://smokefree.gov/smokefreetxt.
    • Get a smartphone app from Smokefree.gov at https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/apps.
    • If you or a family member is an employee of Cleveland Clinic and a member of the Employee Health Plan (EHP), you may find additional help through the nicotine cessation programs offered by the Employee Health Program (EHP), as well other Wellness and Preventive Medicine programs.
    • In addition, for children under the age of 18, there are local addiction treatment centers. You can discuss options with your doctor or nurse.

How can I make a difference in my community regarding vaping?

  • Share this information with your family and friends.
  • Advocate in your city and state for vape free public spaces.
  • Be aware of local or state laws about vaping/e-cigarettes and be part of the conversation.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/26/2019.


  • US Department of Health and Human Services. Know the risks: E-cigarettes & young people. (https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/default.htm) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes). (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and tobacco use: Electronic cigarettes. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • American Lung Association. The impact of e-cigarettes on the lung. (https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/impact-of-e-cigarettes-on-lung.html) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • Smokefree.gov. What we know about e-cigarettes. (https://smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/ecigs-menthol-dip/ecigs) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • Nemours Foundation. Vaping: What you need to know. (https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/e-cigarettes.html) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • Ohio Department of Health. Tobacco use prevention and cessation. (https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/know-our-programs/tobacco-use-prevention-and-cessation/welcome-to) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • American Heart Association. Help! I want to quit smoking! (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking-tobacco/help-i-want-to-quit-smoking) Accessed 9/27/2019.
  • American Thoracic Society. Vaping/Electronic Delivery Systems. (https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/vaping-electronic-nicotine-delivery-systems.pdf) Accessed 9/27/2019.

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