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E-cigarettes

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Are they safe?

What is an e-cigarette?

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a battery operated device that heats a liquid into a vapor, which is inhaled. The liquid often contains nicotine and other chemicals and may come in different flavors.

Some people who are trying to quit smoking choose to use electronic cigarettes to manage nicotine cravings.

Are they a safe tool for quitting smoking?

Not enough research has been done to show that e-cigarettes are a safe and effective tool for helping people quit smoking.

  • The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) found that some e-cigarette cartridges contained known cancer-causing agents and issued a warning about health risks.
  • We don’t know the long-term impact of inhaling nicotine and other chemicals or breathing second-hand “smoke” in the air from e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA and the amount of nicotine and other chemicals can vary among products.
  • Some states have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors because they may lead to teens experimenting with tobacco products.
  • The liquid in the cartridge can make young children sick if they drink it.

Because there are no studies showing that e-cigarettes are safe or that they help people who want to quit smoking, Kaiser Permanente recommends that our members avoid e-cigarettes and use approved nicotine replacement therapy methods like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.

Reviewed by: Albert Ray, MD and Juanita Redfield, MD, February 2014
© 2014 Kaiser Permanente