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E-cigarettes, "Vapes" and JUULs: What Teens Should Know

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What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, include "vapes," hookah pens, or JUULs. They are battery-powered devices that heat an e-liquid sometimes called "e-juice" that often contains nicotine. E-cigarettes are inhaled like regular cigarettes and produce an aerosol cloud of nicotine or other substances. They are not proven to be a safer alternative to cigarettes.

Is there a difference between e-cigarettes and JUULing?

  • No. JUULs may look different, but they're actually a type of e-cigarette.
  • Every JUUL pod contains highly addictive nicotine. JUUL does not make any nicotine-free pods. Some JUUL pods claim to have roughly as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.
  • The aerosol cloud produced by a JUUL might not look as thick as other e-cigarettes' or regular cigarette smoke, but it still contains many of the same chemicals and has the same health risks.

Aren't e-cigarettes less harmful than tobacco? Isn't it just water vapor?

  • The aerosol produced by e-cigarettes isn’t water vapor and it isn’t harmless.
  • The aerosol inhaled from these products is often a mixture of harmful chemicals like nicotine, formaldehyde and acrolein.
  • Virtually all e-cigarettes contain nicotine—even the ones labeled "nicotine free." This is because there are no rules about how e-cigarettes or "e-juice" are made. There is no way to know exactly what is in an e-cigarette.
  • "E-juice" and JUUL pods flavored like fruit or other treats carry the same health risks as the unflavored products. Also, the flavorings used are typically not safe to be inhaled into the lungs.

What’s the deal with flavored e-cigarettes?

  • For years, Big Tobacco has used flavoring to lure young smokers into a life of addiction. Now they are using this same strategy to entice today’s youth into trying e-cigarettes.
  • Two-thirds of teens who vape are using fruit-flavored e-cigarettes, and 64 percent report using mint or menthol e-cigarette flavors.
  • It has also been found that if teens start vaping with sweet flavors like cotton candy or mango, they are more likely to develop a lifetime addiction.
  • The American Lung Association strongly supports clearing all flavored products from the market, including menthol.

What are the health risks of e-cigarettes?

  • E-cigarettes contain chemicals that can cause irreversible lung damage and alter teen brains.
  • E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer, and acrolein which is used as a weed killer and can cause irreversible lung damage.
  • Nicotine is highly addictive and exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain.
  • Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to use traditional cigarettes.
  • In the short term, e-cigarette aerosol can irritate your lungs, throat and eyes. It can also make it more likely that you’ll catch colds or get the flu.

Is it legal for people to sell e-cigarettes to youth or for youth to buy or use them

  • In the majority of states, the minimum age of sale for e-cigarettes is 18; in three states the minimum age is 19 and in six states and DC the minimum age is 21.
  • In many states, it is illegal for retailers to sell youth e-cigarettes, and in some states it is also illegal for youth to possess e-cigarettes.
  • Many schools have added e-cigarettes to their tobacco-free school policies and the consequences for using them on school grounds are often the same as smoking traditional cigarettes.

Can e-cigarettes help someone quit?

  • No e-cigarette has been found to be safe and effective to help people quit smoking.
  • If you know someone who wants to quit smoking, they can call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit Lung.org/stop-smoking to learn about quitting safely.

Learn more:

Contact your local American Lung Association office for information on youth leadership groups and other youth tobacco initiatives at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

For parents looking to understand more about the teen vaping epidemic, visit The Vape Talk.

Page last updated: March 3, 2020

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