What Are Electronic Cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that people use to heat liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled. They’re also called e-cigarettes, e-cigs, or vapes.
The inhaled vapor may contain nicotine (the addictive drug in tobacco), flavorings, and toxins—including ones that cause cancer.
The government controls e-cigarettes as tobacco products. This means you must be at least 18 to buy them in the U.S. Despite that, e-cigarettes are more popular among U.S. teens than any other form of tobacco. In 2017, about 1 in 5 twelfth graders reported “vaping” nicotine.
Youth who use nicotine are at risk of long-term health effects. Nicotine affects the development of the brain’s reward system and brain circuits that control attention and learning. Continued use of nicotine can lead to addiction and raise the risk for addiction to other drugs.
Some people believe that e-cigarettes can help them quit smoking tobacco. Researchers are testing whether this may be true. However, nicotine patches and many other FDA-approved quit aids are available now to help people quit smoking. Learn more.
NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B52
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Tianna Hicklin, Ph.D.
Illustrator: Alan Defibaugh
Attention Editors: Reprint our articles and illustrations in your own publication. Our material is not copyrighted. Please acknowledge NIH News in Health as the source and send us a copy.
For more consumer health news and information, visit health.nih.gov.
For wellness toolkits, visit www.nih.gov/wellnesstoolkits.