E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid, called e-liquid, into an aerosol that the user can inhale. Although e-liquids do not contain tobacco, they contain chemicals, often including flavorings, and almost always contain nicotine, which is addictive.

E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes and can also be called e-cigs, e-hookahs, vapes or vape pens. One popular e-cigarette, JUUL, is shaped like a USB flash drive.

Using an e-cigarette is often called "vaping" or "JUUL-ing".

Youth and E-cigarettes

The popularity of e-cigarettes among youth is alarming. In 2017, more than one in six New York City high school students reported using e-cigarettes. That means more than three times as many high school students use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes.

Further, in 2018, one in 15 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use was higher among older students, with 9% of seventh grade students and 8.4% of eighth graders using e-cigarettes, compared to 2.6% in sixth grade. Similar to high school students, e-cigarette use was much more common than cigarette use among middle school students.

Flavors, including mint and menthol, are one of the top reasons young people use e-cigarettes. Candy and fruit-flavored e-liquids can make e-cigarettes appealing and seem harmless.

E-cigarettes can be especially harmful for young people because nicotine affects them in different ways than adults. Youth who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to try cigarettes.

Other Health Risks

E-liquid ingredients vary, and the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown. We know that the aerosol from heated e-liquids can contain harmful chemicals, such as:

  • Formaldehyde and benzene, which are known to cause cancer.
  • Diacetyl from flavoring, which is linked to lung disease.
  • Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead.

People can be poisoned if they swallow e-liquid or absorb it through their skin or eyes.

Defective e-cigarette batteries cause fires and explosions that can lead to serious injuries and even death.

What Parents Can Do

Adult Use of E-Cigarettes to Quit Smoking

The evidence for e-cigarettes as a tool to help adults quit smoking is limited. To date, no e-cigarettes have been approved by the FDA as smoking-cessation devices.

People trying to quit should try FDA-approved medications, including over-the-counter and prescription options, which are known to be effective. These medications can make you nearly two times as likely to successfully quit smoking.

Most health insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover treatment to help you quit smoking.

Laws about E-cigarettes

NYC laws prohibit:

  • The use of e-cigarettes in all places where smoking is prohibited, including residential common areas, restaurants, sports arenas and workplaces.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 21. You can file a complaint regarding underage sales online or by calling 311.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes without a valid e-cigarette retail dealer license.

Additional Resources

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