Vaping is when you use a handheld electronic device to breathe a mist (“vapor”) into your lungs. An e-cigarette, vape pen or other electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) heats a liquid of nicotine, flavoring, propylene glycol and other additives into an aerosol that you inhale through a mouthpiece. Vaping can cause breathing problems, organ damage, addiction and other conditions.
Vaping is when you use a small, handheld device (like e-cigarettes, vape pens or mods) to inhale a mist of nicotine and flavoring (e-liquid). It’s similar to smoking a cigarette, but vaping heats tiny particles out of a liquid rather than burning tobacco.
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Vaping works by heating liquid in a small device so you can breathe it into your lungs. The e-cigarette, vape pen or other vaping device heats the liquid in the device to create an aerosol. This isn’t water vapor. Mist from e-cigarettes contains particles of nicotine, flavoring and other substances suspended in air. You breathe these particles into your mouth from the mouthpiece, where they go down your throat and into your lungs.
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that heats up the liquid nicotine and flavoring for you to breathe in. There are many varieties of e-cigarettes that go by different names, including vapes, vape pens or sticks, e-hookahs, hookah sticks, mods and personal vaporizers (PVs). They can also be collectively called electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).
Most types of e-cigarettes have:
Vaping and smoking both involve inhaling nicotine and other substances into your lungs. E-cigarettes heat liquid to make an aerosol; cigarettes burn tobacco, which creates smoke.
Vaping is often thought of as safer than cigarette smoking, but vaping causes health problems, too. Both vaping and smoking are addictive and bring potentially dangerous chemicals into your body. The levels of many of these chemicals is higher when you burn tobacco. Vaping hasn’t been around long enough to know what kind of long-term damage it might cause.
The particles you inhale while vaping can cause inflammation (swelling) and irritation in your lungs. This can lead to lung damage like scarring and narrowing of the tubes that bring air in and out of your lungs. Researchers don’t yet know all the effects vaping can have on your body.
No. Despite the name, vaping doesn’t make water vapor. It actually creates an aerosol (or mist) that contains small particles of nicotine, metal and other harmful substances.
E-liquid, also called e-juice or vape juice, is what vaping devices use to make the vapor you breathe in. E-liquids aren’t just water. They usually contain:
E-liquids and flavorings sometimes have other ingredients, including:
The dangers of vaping include lung and other organ damage, breathing problems, addiction and more. People tend to think of vaping as “safer” than smoking, but it’s not safe.
Problems vaping causes include:
EVALI is short for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury. It’s a serious lung condition caused by vaping. Vitamin E acetate, found in some e-liquids, is a possible cause.
An outbreak of EVALI in late 2019 and early 2020 put thousands of people in the hospital. At least 68 people died. Since then, EVALI cases have been declining, but people who vape can still get EVALI.
Among people who were hospitalized with severe EVALI, most were younger than 35 and used THC-containing vapes from informal sources (online, family or friends). However, EVALI can happen in anyone using either nicotine or THC-containing vapes.
Symptoms of EVALI include:
Short-term side effects of vaping include:
You may have heard the benefits of vaping are that it’s safe or that it helps you quit smoking. Some people vape because they think it’ll help them quit smoking if they’ve already tried other methods and haven’t been able to quit. Unfortunately, you may end up addicted to vaping instead, so the benefits of vaping for smoking cessation may not be as good as they seem. There’s no benefit to vaping if you don’t already smoke.
People usually think vaping isn’t as bad as cigarette smoking, but the mist you breathe in still has nicotine and other harmful chemicals in it. Vaping isn’t safe and can cause health problems, including life-threatening lung injuries.
Some damage to your lungs from vaping can heal or get better with medications. Others, like lung scarring, are permanent. Over time, constant irritation to your lungs can lead to health problems (like asthma and COPD) that won’t go away.
In some cases, yes, you can die from lung injuries vaping causes. For instance, 68 people died in an outbreak of vaping-related illness (EVALI) in 2019 and 2020.
No, it’s not safe to vape while you’re pregnant. Vaping exposes you to some of the same chemicals that cigarette smoking does. Vaping while pregnant can cause low birth weight, lung damage and brain damage in the developing fetus.
Vaping isn’t approved as a way to quit smoking. Approved methods include patches, inhalers, lozenges and gum. While vaping might help you quit smoking, it probably won’t help you quit nicotine altogether.
In a recent study, about 18% of people who switched to vaping had been able to quit smoking. That’s about twice as many people as those who used other methods to quit smoking. However, about 80% of people who quit smoking were still vaping. Of people who used other methods, 91% kicked nicotine products altogether.
Quitting vaping is similar to quitting smoking, sticking to a diet or any other habit you want to change. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight, but you can make a plan to help you along the way:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
From accessories to flavors, vaping can seem very appealing. Unfortunately, it’s not as harmless as it seems. We know nicotine and other ingredients in e-liquids can hurt your body and we still don’t know what long-term health problems vaping could cause. If you don’t vape, don’t start. If you need help quitting, know that you’re not alone. There are online resources, texting and phone services and apps that connect you with real people to help you on your journey to kick the habit.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/22/2022.
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