Vaping is using a battery-powered device to inhale liquid nicotine or other chemicals. The devices may be called vapes, e-cigarettes, or vape pens. They can look like everyday items such as pens, cigarettes, or USB flash drives.
They use a blend of liquid nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals. This is called vaping liquid. It comes in different nicotine strengths. THC (a chemical in marijuana) products can also be used.
How do vapes work?
Vapes have four main parts:
- The mouthpiece.
- It's where you breathe in to use the device.
- A cartridge.
- It holds the vaping liquid made of liquid nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals. These liquids come in different flavors and nicotine strengths. THC can also be used. It comes in disposable pods or refillable cartridges.
- A heating element.
- It turns the vaping liquid into tiny liquid particles suspended in a gas. This is called an aerosol.
- A battery.
- It provides power to the heating element.
You inhale through the mouthpiece. This turns on the battery. The battery heats the vaping liquid or THC into an aerosol cloud that you breathe in. This is called vaping.
Is vaping safe?
More research is needed before experts can tell if vaping is safe. The long-term health effects aren't known. Here's what experts are learning about vaping.
- It's not harmless water vapor.
- The "vapor" made by vaping isn't a vapor at all. It's an aerosol cloud made of chemicals suspended in a gas. This vape aerosol contains chemicals known to be harmful.
- It likely has nicotine.
- Nicotine is addictive. It's harmful to developing brains, such as in unborn babies, children, and young adults up to age 25. Liquid nicotine can be lethal if swallowed. Keep it out of children's reach.
- It may cause a deadly lung disease.
- There have been outbreaks of lung disease and death related to vaping. Some sources call it vaping-related lung injury. Many of these may be from vaping products with THC. But the exact cause isn't known.
Can vaping help you stop smoking?
More research is needed to know how well vaping works to help quit smoking. Talk with your doctor first to see if vaping is right for you. Some people try reducing the amount of nicotine they vape over time. But vaping isn't approved as a quit-smoking aid.
Current as of: November 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine