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.

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.

  • Nicotine is addictive, especially for youth. One pod of JUUL, a popular e-cigarette brand, contains as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.
  • Nicotine can change the chemistry of the teen brain. It may affect learning by making memory and concentration worse.
  • Studies show that youth who use e-cigarettes are 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

  • Learn about e-cigarettes and the different types of vaping products youth are using.
  • Talk to your children about the risks of using e-cigarettes.
    • Ask your child what they have heard about e-cigarettes and if any of their friends are vaping.
    • Encourage an open, ongoing conversation.
    • Avoid criticizing your child and acknowledge how hard it is to resist peer pressure, but explain your concerns about vaping.

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 call 311 to file a complaint regarding underage sales.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes without a valid e-cigarette retail dealer license.
  • Additional Resources

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