What is Vaping?

January 1, 2018

More than 2 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2016. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), that’s 11 percent of high school students and 4.3 percent of middle school students.

An e-cigarette is an example of an electronic nicotine delivery system. Others include vape pens, hookah pens and vaporizers.


Electronic nicotine delivery systems are becoming increasingly popular, creating a new risk for everyone – especially today's teens. These nicotine delivery systems heat juice comprised of various chemicals into a vapor, which is then inhaled. The act of inhaling is called vaping.

Beth Roberts,a smoking intervention specialist for Middlesex Hospital’s Center for Chronic Care Management, warns that juice used with electronic nicotine delivery systems usually contains nicotine, an addictive substance also found in tobacco, and possible carcinogens, such as a formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. In addition, the FDA says heavy metals, such as lead and nickel, and flavorings made from harmful chemicals may also be in juice. These chemicals can include vegetable glycerin, and heated glycerin forms acrolein, which can damage the lungs and contribute to heart disease in smokers.

electronic nicotine delivery system

While Roberts says it is hard to determine whether using electronic nicotine delivery systems is less harmful than smoking and difficult to identify the long-term dangers associated with this behavior, she urges caution, pointing to a new FDA rule that began this month. As of 2018, all newly marketed tobacco products must come with a nicotine addictiveness warning label. This includes electronic nicotine delivery systems.

Roberts runs Middlesex Hospital's tobacco cessation program, and like leaders of other cessation programs around the country, she is trying to determine where vaping fits into her curriculum. Middlesex's program does not promote vaping as an alternative to smoking, but participants are educated about the chemicals associated with both smoking and vaping and about measurable carbon monoxide levels. Cigarettes contain much higher levels of carbon monoxide, which stay in the body for hours after tobacco use. This fact often leads many to believe that vaping is the healthier activity, but both vaping and tobacco use are not healthy activities.

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