E-Cigarettes & Vaping

Tobacco Free Nebraska
Public Health

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What you need to know


E-cigarettes are sometimes called e-cigs, vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens and other everyday items.

E-Cigarettes - What's the bottom line?

  • E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
  • While e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit some people and harm others, scientists still have a lot to learn about whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping adults quit smoking.​​​​
  • If you've never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don't start.
  • Research about the health effects of e-cigarettes is ongoing, but the bottom line is that e-cigarette use can harm your health. 


​What are e-cigarettes?

  • ​E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).
  • E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.
  • Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items. Larger devices such as tank systems, or mods, do not resemble other tobacco products.
  • Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called vaping.
  • E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products—flavorings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air.
  • E-cigarettes can be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs.

What is in e-cigarette aerosol?

The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including:

  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause damage
  • Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
  • Volatile organic compounds, such as benzene and formaldehyde
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

It is difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain. For example, some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.​

What are the health effects of using e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are still fairly new, and scientists are still learning about their long-term health effects. Here is what we know now.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has known health effects.

  • Nicotine is highly addictive.
  • Nicotine is toxic to developing fetuses.
  • Nicotine can harm adolescent and young adult brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.
  • Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and their developing babies.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol can contain substances that harm the body.

  • This includes cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs. However, e-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer harmful chemicals than smoke from burned tobacco products.

E-cigarettes can cause unintended injuries.

  • Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) collects data to help address this issue. You can report an e-cigarette explosion or any other unexpected health or safety issue with an e-cigarette here.
  • In addition, acute nicotine exposure can be toxic. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.

What are the risk of e-cigarettes for youth, young adults and pregnant women?

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and toxic to developing fetuses. Nicotine exposure can also harm adolescent and young adult brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. E-cigarette aerosol can contain chemicals that are harmful to the lungs. And youth e-cigarette use is associated with the use of other tobacco products, including cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes less harmful than regular cigarettes?

Yes—but that doesn't mean e-cigarettes are safe. E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes. However, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.

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 health care, 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.

Who is using e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.

  • In the United States, youth are more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes.
  • In 2022, over 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including 3.3% of middle school students and 14.1% of high school students.
  • In 2021, among adult e-cigarette users overall​, 29.4% also were current regular cigarette smokers, 40.3% were former regular cigarette smokers, and 30.3% had never been regular cigarette smokers.
  • Among current e-cigarette users aged 45 years and older in 2021, most were either current or former regular cigarette smokers, and 7.2% had never been cigarette smokers. In contrast, among current e-cigarette users aged 18–24 years, 61.4% had never been regular cigarette smokers.

What are heated tobacco products?

  • Sometimes marketed as “heat-not-burn" products, heated tobacco products come in many forms.
  • Heated tobacco products are not an FDA-approved method for quitting smoking.
  • Some heated tobacco products use electronic heating elements.
    • Some heat specially-designed sticks, plugs, or capsules containing tobacco. This is how the heated tobacco products authorized for sale in the United States work.
    • Some work by heating liquids that create an aerosol that then passes through a tobacco plug to absorb flavor and nicotine from the tobacco.
    • Some have a sealed part of the device that heats loose tobacco, either alone or together with flowers from the marijuana (cannabis) plant.
  • Some heated tobacco products have a similar size and shape as regular cigarettes and have a carbon tip wrapped in glass fibers that the user heats with a lighter or match.
  • Heated tobacco products are not the same as electronic cigarettes because it heats the actual tobacco leaf. E-cigarettes heat liquids that typically contain nicotine derived from tobacco, as well as flavorings and other ingredients. Learn more about heated tobacco products.

Education Tools Relating to E-Cigarettes

Youth use of e-cigarettes continues to be an emerging public health challenge. Addressing this requires the collaboration of local, state and national partners along with those working directly with youth, such as school administrators, nurses, teachers and others to ensure all young people can learn in an environment free from e-cigarette use. Below are some resources to assist in education and outreach.

Microlearning Video About E-Cigarettes

Short Version

Long Version


Other resources for parents, teachers and those working with schools and youth organizations:

​​Tobacco Free Nebraska
Department of Health & Human Services
TFN Phone Number
(402) 471-2101
Quitline Toll-Free Number
1-800-784-8669 / 1-855-335-3569
TFN Fax Number
(402) 328-6287​
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 95026, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-5026