Myths and Facts About E-cigarettes
There's been a significant increase in electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use in recent years, particularly among kids and teens, as well as smokers looking for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. But lack of basic consumer protection and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight leaves concerns unanswered about the health and safety of these products. So what do we know? Here's a look at some common misperceptions about e-cigarettes.
MYTH: E-cigarettes are safe.
FACT: E-cigarettes are unregulated tobacco products.
Nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are on the market and none of them have been evaluated by the FDA. We don't know for sure what's in them. Studies have found toxic chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze and formaldehyde in e-cigarettes. Because the FDA doesn't regulate these products, there aren't requirements around ingredient disclosure, warning labels or youth access restrictions.
MYTH: E-cigarettes don't have nicotine.
FACT: Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine—including many that claim they are nicotine-free.
A 2014 study showed wide-ranging nicotine levels in e-cigarettes and inconsistencies between listed and actual nicotine levels in these products. Nicotine is an addictive substance that can have negative health impacts, including on adolescent brain development. The more nicotine a person uses, the greater the potential for addiction.
MYTH: E-cigarettes can help smokers quit.
FACT: The FDA hasn't found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.
Instead of quitting, many e-cigarette users are continuing to use e-cigarettes while still using conventional cigarettes. In 2015, 59 percent of the people who recently used e-cigarettes also currently smoked conventional cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that even smoking a few cigarettes a day is dangerous to your health.
When smokers are ready to quit, they should talk with their doctors about using one of the seven FDA-approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. They can also contact the American Lung Association to find a program that is right for them.
MYTH: E-cigarettes aren't marketed to kids.
FACT: E-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2015.
With aggressive industry tactics such as cartoon characters and candy flavors including bubble gum, fruit loops, chocolate and strawberry, it's no surprise studies show a dramatic increase in kids using e-cigarettes. For the first time ever, teens are smoking e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes.
MYTH: There's no secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes.
FACT: E-cigarettes expose others to secondhand emissions.
The aerosol (vapor) emitted by e-cigarettes and exhaled by users contains carcinogens, such as formaldehyde, according to early studies. Little is known about these emissions or the potential harm they can cause.