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Vaping: What You Need to Know


What Is Vaping?

Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated into a vapor, which the person inhales. That's why using e-cigarettes is called "vaping."

What Are the Health Effects of Vaping?

Vaping hasn't been around long enough for us to know how it affects the body over time. But health experts are reporting serious lung damage in people who vape, including some deaths.

Vaping puts nicotine into the body. Nicotine is highly addictive and can:

  • slow brain development in teens and affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood 
  • increase the risk of other types of addiction later in life

E-cigarettes also:

  • irritate the lungs
  • may cause serious lung damage and even death
  • can lead to smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use

Some people use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana, THC oil, and other dangerous chemicals. Besides irritating the lungs, these drugs also affect how someone thinks, acts, and feels. 

How Do E-Cigarettes Work?

There are different kinds of e-cigarettes. But many people use the Juul. This e-cigarette looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a laptop's USB port. It makes less smoke than other e-cigarettes, so some teens use them to vape at home and in school. The Juul pod's nicotine levels are the same as in a full pack of cigarettes.

Do I Have to Vape Every Day to Get Addicted?

Even if you don't vape every day, you can still get addicted. How quickly someone gets addicted varies. Some people get addicted even if they don't vape every day. 

What About E-cigarettes That Don't Have Nicotine?

Most e-cigarettes do have nicotine. Even those that don't do have chemicals in them. These chemicals can irritate and damage the lungs. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes that don't have nicotine are not known.

Why Should I Quit?

Wanting to be the best, healthiest version of yourself is an important reason to quit vaping. Others include:

Unknown health effects: The long-term health consequences of vaping are not known. Recent studies report serious lung damage in people who vape, and even some deaths.

Addiction: Addiction in the growing brain may set up pathways for later addiction to other substances.

Brain risks: Nicotine affects your brain development. This can make it harder to learn and concentrate. Some of the brain changes are permanent and can affect your mood and ability to control your impulses as an adult.

Use of other tobacco products: Studies show that vaping makes it more likely that someone will try other tobacco products, like regular cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco.

Toxins (poisons): The vapor made from e-cigarettes is not made of water. The vapor contains harmful chemicals and very fine particles that are inhaled into the lungs and exhaled into the environment.

Sports: You want to do your best in sports, and vaping may lead to lung inflammation (irritation).

Money: Vaping is expensive! The cost of the cartridges over time starts to add up. Instead, you could spend that money on other things you need or enjoy.

To go against tobacco company advertising: Many e-cigarettes are made by the same companies that produce regular cigarettes. Their marketing targets young people by making fun flavors for e-cigarettes and showing young, healthy people vaping. They're trying to make you into their new, lifetime customer.

How Can I Quit?

  • Decide why you want to quit and write it down or put it in your phone. Look at the reason(s) when you feel the urge to vape.
  • Pick a day to stop vaping. Put it on the calendar and tell supportive friends and family that you're quitting on that day.
  • Get rid of all vaping supplies.
  • Download tools (such as apps and texting programs) to your phone that can help with cravings and give encouragement while you try to stop vaping.
  • Understand withdrawal. Nicotine addiction leads to very strong cravings for nicotine. It can also lead to:
    • headaches
    • feeling tired, cranky, angry, or depressed
    • trouble concentrating
    • trouble sleeping
    • hunger
    • restlessness

The signs of withdrawal are strongest in the first few days after stopping. They get better over the following days and weeks.

Get ready for feelings, people, and places that make you want to vape. These are called triggers. If possible, avoid places and people that trigger the urge to vape. If you feel the urge to vape, try these things instead:

  • Chew sugar-free gum or drink water.
  • Text, call, or hang out with a friend who will support you.
  • Listen to your favorite playlist.
  • Go for a walk or jog.
  • Try yoga or meditation.
  • Take 10 deep breaths.
  • Keep your hands busy with a hobby, like drawing or making jewelry.
  • Go somewhere where smoking/vaping isn't allowed.

What Else Can I Do?

Now that you understand the risks of vaping, take control of your health. If you're having a hard time quitting, talk to your health care provider about local programs and websites that can help you quit vaping.

If you vape, know that it may cause serious lung damage, and even death. Call your doctor right away if you vape and have:

  • coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • tiredness, fever, or weight loss
Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date reviewed: September 2019