• By Jen O'Hara

How safe are electronic cigarettes?

August 1, 2019
a young man exhaling from a vaping tool

Cigarette smoking has fallen to its lowest point in recorded history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there’s a new problem at hand: electronic cigarettes. These battery-powered devices were introduced to the market to help smokers switch from traditional cigarettes. They work by heating a liquid into an aerosol that a user inhales. They are not an aid to quit smoking that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Using e-cigarettes, also called vaping, has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults. 

Because e-cigarettes don't burn tobacco, most experts agree that they're likely to cause fewer harmful effects than traditional cigarettes. But some e-cigarettes may contain harmful substances, such as carcinogens; toxic chemicals; and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. E-cigarettes containing nicotine aren't considered safe for children, young adults or pregnant women. Nicotine can harm brain development in children and adults into their early 20s, and it is toxic to developing fetuses. In youth and adult nonsmokers, e-cigarette use also poses the risk of a nicotine addiction, which could lead to long-term use of e-cigarettes — the effects of which aren't known — or the use of traditional cigarettes. 

On the next Mayo Clinic Radio program, Dr. Jon Ebbert, associate director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center, will talk about smoking cessation, nicotine addiction and e-cigarettes. Also on the program, John Konfala, a Mayo Clinic patient, will share his story. Konfala had an aortic valve replacement done by surgeon Dr. Juan Crestanello, at Ohio State University Hospital. When Konfala needed a second surgery, he followed Dr. Crestanello to his new location — Mayo Clinic. Skip Sturtz, another Mayo Clinic patient, will share why he chose to become an altruistic kidney donor.

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Mayo Clinic Radio produces a weekly one-hour radio program highlighting health and medical information from Mayo Clinic.

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