Electronic Cigarettes

Download the Electronic Cigarettes Fact Sheet

Background

  • According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are devices that allow users to inhale an aerosol containing nicotine or other substances.
  • Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are generally battery-operated and use an atomizer to heat liquid from a cartridge until it becomes a chemical-filled aerosol. These products do not simply produce a "water vapor" as claimed in marketing for these products.
  • E-cigarettes are often available in flavors that may appeal to children and teens, including cotton candy, bubble gum, chocolate, strawberry and mint.
  • There are almost 500 different brands of e-cigarettes on the market today, and e-cigarettes come in 7,700 different flavors.

What are the Health Effects of E-Cigarettes?

  • The health consequences of the use of e-cigarettes and exposure to secondhand e-cigarette emissions are unknown. There is currently no scientific evidence establishing the safety of e-cigarettes.
  • In initial lab tests conducted in 2009, FDA found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges. The lab tests also found that cartridges labeled as nicotine-free had traceable levels of nicotine.
  • There is no evidence that shows the aerosol emitted by e-cigarettes is safe for non-users to inhale.

Can E-Cigarettes Help Someone Quit Smoking?

  • The FDA has not approved any e-cigarettes as a safe or effective method to help smokers quit. The U.S. Public Health Service has found that the seven therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in combination with individual, group or phone cessation counseling is the most effective way to help smokers quit.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "E-Cigarettes: Questions and Answers." September 9, 2010. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm225210.htm.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Warns of Health Risks Posed by E-Cigarettes." July 23, 2009. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm173401.htm.

Zhu SH et al. "Four hundred and sixty brands of e-cigarettes and counting: implications for product regulation." Tobacco Control. July 2014; 23 Suppl 3:ii3-ii9.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Summary of Results: Laboratory Analysis of Electronic Cigarettes Conducted by FDA." July 22, 2009. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm173146.htm.