What's in an E-Cigarette?
E-cigarettes, aka JUULs and vape pens, use a battery to heat up a special liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. It's not just harmless water vapor. The "e-juice" that fills the cartridges usually contains nicotine (which is extracted from tobacco), propylene glycol, flavorings and other chemicals. Studies have found that even e-cigarettes claiming to be nicotine-free contain trace amounts of nicotine. Additionally, when the e-liquid heats up, more toxic chemicals are formed.
Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not begun its review of any e-cigarette or its ingredients, nor has FDA issued any standards on the products, e-cigarette composition and effects vary. What researchers do know is that these toxic chemicals and metals have all been found in e-cigarettes:
- Nicotine – a highly addictive substance that negatively affects adolescent brain development
- Propylene glycol – a common additive in food; also used to make things like antifreeze, paint solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines
- Carcinogens- chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
- Acrolein – a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds, can cause irreversible lung damage
- Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans aka "popcorn lung"
- Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze that is linked to lung disease
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
- Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease
- Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
E-cigarettes, "Vapes" and JUULs: What Parents Should Know [PDF]Download
E-Cigarettes, "Vapes" and JUULs: What Schools Should Know [PDF]Download
E-Cigarettes, "Vapes" and JUULs: What Teens Should Know [PDF]Download
The Impact of E-Cigarettes on the Lung [PDF]Download
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed August 19, 2019.
Page Last Updated: December 11, 2019
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