E-cigarettes & Adults

E-cigarettes were initially developed and marketed as a substitute for combustible cigarettes. While they may be less harmful than regular cigarettes when used solely as a form of cessation, they are not an FDA-approved quit aid.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a solution (or e-liquid) and convert it into an aerosol (not a vapor), which is then inhaled and delivers nicotine and other chemicals to the user. This process is often called “vaping” or “juuling.”

E-cigarette and vape devices go by many names:

  • electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)
  • e-cigs
  • e-hookahs
  • mods
  • vape pens
  • vapes
  • JUULs 1

E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver other drugs, like marijuana, to the user.

Various e-cigarette devices from left to right: Puff Bar, Air Bar Max, POD, Vuse, JUUL, Suorin Air Open Pod, Joyetech e-Vic-VT Vape MOD, Glas Pod System, NJOY.

Are e-cigarettes less harmful than regular cigarettes?

They may be less harmful than cigarettes when used by adults who are trying to quit smoking. But, just because they’re less harmful than cigarettes, doesn’t mean they are safe.

Although the FDA has prioritized regulations, research is still being conducted on these products, so we don’t know the full extent of danger or potential for damage just yet. But we do have decades of research proving that nicotine is highly addictive and especially dangerous for youth, young adults and pregnant women.

E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer of the toxic chemicals found in regular cigarettes, but it’s not harmless. At least 60 chemical compounds have been found in e-liquids, and more are present in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes. 2 It can contain harmful substances, including:

  • Nicotine
  • Heavy metals like lead
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing agents 3

If you live with or are around small children or pets, there’s also a risk of accidental ingestion and nicotine poisoning. The chemicals in e-liquids can be absorbed through the skin – kids or pets don’t have to ingest it – just touching it can be very dangerous. Scary stuff. 4

Most e-cigarettes contain the highly addictive drug nicotine. One JUUL pod alone contains 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. Yikes! 5

Can e-cigarettes help adults quit smoking cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are not currently approved by the FDA as a quit smoking aid. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of health experts that makes recommendations about preventive healthcare, has concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant women.

However, e-cigarettes may help non-pregnant adult smokers if used as a complete substitute for all cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.

Are e-cigarettes harmful during pregnancy?

Nicotine in any form is extremely dangerous to developing fetuses and should never be used by pregnant women.

The nicotine in e-cigarette and tobacco products is delivered to the baby and puts the baby at risk. When mom uses e-cigarettes containing nicotine:

  • The baby is exposed to many harmful chemicals
  • Flavorings are not safe for the baby
  • The baby’s supply of oxygen is limited
  • The baby's supply of nutrients are limited
  • Nicotine permanently damages the baby's developing brain and lungs 6

If you’re pregnant and want help quitting, the QuitLine offers additional support before, during, and after pregnancy.

Ready to quit e-cigarettes?

If you’re ready to quit – we’re ready to help.

Quit with a coach or do it yourself. Choose from our free tools and services to find the best fit for you.