Is Vaping Bad For You?

A man smoking an e-cigarette; vaping

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Vaping involves using battery-powered vape devices—usually electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes”—to inhale aerosol. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 99% of vaping devices contain nicotine. 

Some people try vaping in an attempt to quit smoking or as a “safer” alternative to cigarettes. While vape devices don’t contain as many carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) as cigarettes, they’re still associated with a number of serious health risks. Additionally, vaping hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an effective smoking cessation aid. 

Learn more about vaping, including potential risks, side effects, and when to see a healthcare provider.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping refers to the use of electronic devices to heat liquid (known as “e-juice” or “e-liquid”) and create an aerosol, which is then inhaled. Using e-cigarettes and similar devices is commonly referred to as “vaping.”

Many vape pens look like battery-powered versions of regular cigarettes. Others look like everyday objects, such as USB drives. Some are disposable and designed for one-time use, while others— such as vape pods, which can contain 20 times as much nicotine as a cigarette—are refillable. 

The vast majority of vape devices contain nicotine and are classified as tobacco products by the FDA. Some e-cigarettes are also used to deliver marijuana. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes typically contain flavoring and a variety of other chemicals.

Vaping vs. Smoking

Like smoking, vaping usually involves inhaling nicotine and a cocktail of other chemicals. Many people believe that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking because vaping devices contain far fewer toxic chemicals than the mix of 7,000 in cigarettes. However, this doesn’t mean that vaping itself is safe. However, e-cigarette aerosol can still contain harmful substances like nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.

Among U.S. teens, vaping is even more popular than smoking. This may be because of wider availability and the variety of flavors. Many teens have bought into the belief that vaping is safer than smoking. Vaping is also easier to hide from parents and teachers because it doesn’t cause the same smell as smoking cigarettes. 

Some people claim that vaping can be used as a way to quit smoking. However, research about whether vaping can be an effective smoking cessation aid is still inconclusive. Also, many people who vape also smoke cigarettes. This practice, called “dual use,” can increase your risk of heart disease and many other health concerns.

Risks and Side Effects of Vaping

Vaping is associated with a number of serious health risks, both physical and mental. Let’s go over some of the most common potential risks and side effects of using e-cigarettes.


Because they contain nicotine and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—harmful chemicals that are also in cigarettes—vaping devices cause many of the same symptoms and health risks as any other kind of nicotine use. These may include:

  • Eye, nose, lung, airway, and throat irritation 
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low birth weight and premature labor when used during pregnancy
  • Seizures in extremely large doses

Nicotine is also highly addictive. After becoming physically dependent on it, you could experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. These may include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

What’s more, research suggests that vaping can increase your risk of developing other addictions as well. This is especially true for teens and young adults.

Mental Health Disorders

Studies suggest that vaping may contribute to a higher likelihood of mental health symptoms and disorders. These include:

Sexual Dysfunction

Studies have found that using e-cigarettes increases your risk of sexual and reproductive dysfunction. Examples include erectile dysfunction (ED), lower sperm count, and altered levels of certain fertility hormones. This may be because of the inflammatory effects of vaping.

Lung Illnesses

Because vaping involves inhaling fine particles deep into your lungs, the practice is associated with a wide range of potentially deadly lung-related illnesses, such as:

In recent years, the CDC and the American Lung Association (ALA) have also warned about a growing number of diagnoses of e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) among people who vape. Researchers believe that common vape pen additives, such as vitamin E acetate, may be to blame.


The potential links between vaping and cancer are still being explored. Still, there's no doubt that vape users are exposed to many different toxic chemicals, including carcinogens. In addition to formaldehyde, several heavy metals (including nickel, chromium, and cadmium) can be found in vaping devices.

How to Quit Vaping

Quitting vaping can be challenging, but you're not alone. Here are a few tips on how to quit vaping and take control of your health:

  • Get motivated: When it comes to quitting vaping, finding your “why” can be all you need to get started. Think about the life you’d like to have and how being vape-free can help you get there. 
  • Set a date: Choosing a “quit date” can help you stay accountable, especially if you let others know about your plan. Give yourself some time and space to prepare. However, try not to put it off too long or you could lose sight of your goal. 
  • Make a plan: Create a plan to quit, based on your personal lifestyle and needs. Consider how you’re going to handle cravings, avoid triggers, and stay motivated along the way. 
  • Reach out for support: The only thing more challenging than quitting an addiction is doing it alone. Build a support team that can help you in difficult moments. Your team can include friends, loved ones, and other supportive peers as well as medical professionals, such as a tobacco cessation counselor. 
  • Find resources: Ready to get help? Contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW, 1-877-44U-QUIT, or the National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp service.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you’re having trouble quitting vaping on your own, it may be time to reach out to a healthcare provider for support. 

You might need help from a physician, counselor, or other medical professional if vaping is negatively affecting your:

  • Thoughts and feelings
  • Physical, mental, and/or emotional well-being
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Social life
  • Impulse control
  • Focus
  • Performance at work or school
  • Self-esteem
  • Sense of control over your own life

A Quick Review

Vaping, which involves inhaling a flavored aerosol with e-cigarettes and similar electronic devices, is sometimes claimed to be a safer way to simulate smoking. 

However, vaping is associated with a number of severe and even fatal health risks. Some of the health risks linked to vaping include addiction, mental health disorders, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, lung-related illnesses, and cancer. 

If you want to quit vaping, help is available. Reach out to a tobacco cessation counselor or hotline for support and resources.

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