E-cigarettes and vaping: Everything you need to know

The American Heart Association issued its first official policy recommendation on electronic cigarettes this week, saying they were a last-resort method of quitting traditional cigarettes.

The heart association also pointed to studies suggesting that e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but no tobacco, could serve as a “gateway” drug to addict young people, who may go on to regular cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.

Despite growing in popularity, many questions remain over e-cigs and potential health risks. Here are answers to some common questions:

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are battery operated inhalers that consist of a rechargeable battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up at the end when you puff on the device.


Are e-cigarettes currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration?

No. An April proposal from the Food and Drug Administration would require most e-cigarettes to undergo an agency review. In its new statement, the heart association calls on the FDA to put the proposed rules — three years in the making — in place before the end of the year.

What is vaping?

Vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer or electronic cigarette. When users draw on the device, the battery heats the liquid, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.1

How does vaping differ from traditional smoking?

E-cigarettes differ from traditional cigarettes in that they do not contain carcinogens such as arsenic and vinyl chloride. Additionally, there is no secondhand smoke associated with vaping.

What are the health risks of e-cigarettes?

Little is known about the health effects, which have been sold in the USA since 2007.

Thomas Glynn, the director of science and trends at the American Cancer Society, said there was a great likelihood that e-cigarettes would prove considerably less harmful than traditional cigarettes