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What Is Vaping? Everything You Need To Know

While many vaping products typically contain about half of the nicotine found in a cigarette, users still face many health risks.

Vaping has become one of the more popular ways to consume both tobacco and marijuana. But, as with anything, with popularity comes added attention to the potential risks.

A "vape,"or electronic cigarette, is a device that heats up a liquid to create a vapor you inhale. Some types of vaping devices include pens, e-cigarettes (like JUUL), and hookahs. While vaping appears to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, there are still many health risks involved. Here’s everything you need to know.

How Does Vaping Work?

Vaping devices can vary in shape, size and color. Devices produce an aerosol byproduct from heating up a liquid that sometimes consists of flavorings and other chemicals that make vaping seem less harsh (initially at least) than smoking. This liquid delivers nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs to the user via a mouthpiece that is inhaled into the lungs then expelled via the mouth or nose.

Vaping Health and Safety Risks

While many of these products typically feature a liquid containing one-third-to-half the nicotine found in a cigarette—for example, one 5% strength JUULpod is designed to replace an entire pack of cigarettes in nicotine strength—vaping users still face many health and safety risks.

Nicotine, a stimulant which can harm the developing adolescent brain (which continues to grow until approximately 25 years of age), is found in many e-cigarettes, though not always listed on the label, according to a recent CDC study.

The use of nicotine in developing adolescent brains can harm parts that control:

  • Learning
  • Mood
  • Attention
  • Impulse control

Nicotine use affects how the synapses—connections between brain cells—are formed. Regular usage in adolescence can also increase the risk for future addiction to cigarettes and other drugs.

Other than nicotine, vaping liquid and subsequent vapor may include other harmful substances including:

  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead
  • Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

Scientists are still actively learning about the effects of vaping, especially surrounding Vitamin E acetate, a chemical added to some vaping liquids to help dilute. There were more than 2,500 cases of users being hospitalized for vaping-related injury as of December 17, 2019. Vaping has also led to 54 deaths across 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Who is Vaping?

According to 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data, 3.6 million children in middle school and high school use e-cigarettes. Use, defined by at least once per day over the past 30 days, has increased 78 percent from 11.7 to 20.8 percent in 2018.

The rise of e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students has resulted in an increase in overall tobacco use by 38 percent in high school students and 29 percent among middle schoolers.

E-cigarette use isn't limited to adolescents: nine percent of U.S. adults say they "regularly or occasionally"vape.