Information for Patients
E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are battery-operated smoking devices. They often look like cigarettes, but work differently. Using an e-cigarette is called vaping. The user puffs on the mouthpiece of a cartridge. This causes a vaporizer to heat the liquid inside the cartridge. The liquid contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The heated liquid turns into the vapor that is inhaled.
Some people think that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, and that they can be used to help people quit smoking. But not much is known about the health risks of using them, or whether they do help people quit smoking. However we do know about some dangers of e-cigarettes:
- They contain nicotine, which is addictive
- They contain other potentially harmful chemicals
- There is a link between e-cigarette use and tobacco cigarette use in teens
- The liquid in e-cigarettes can cause nicotine poisoning if someone drinks, sniffs, or touches it
NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Many people who chew tobacco or dip snuff think it's safer than smoking. But you don't have to smoke tobacco for it to be dangerous. Chewing or dipping carries risks like
- Cancer of the mouth
- Decay of exposed tooth roots
- Pulling away of the gums from the teeth
- White patches or red sores in the mouth that can turn to cancer
Recent research shows the dangers of smokeless tobacco may go beyond the mouth. It might also play a role in other cancers, heart disease and stroke.
Smokeless tobacco contains more nicotine than cigarettes. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that makes it hard to stop using tobacco once you start. Having a quit date and a quitting plan can help you stop successfully.
NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
What are the health effects of smoking?
There's no way around it; smoking is bad for your health. It harms nearly every organ of the body, some that you would not expect. Cigarette smoking causes nearly one in five deaths in the United States. It can also cause many other cancers and health problems. These include
- Cancers, including lung and oral cancers
- Lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Damage to and thickening of blood vessels, which causes high blood pressure
- Blood clots and stroke
- Vision problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD)
Women who smoke while pregnant have a greater chance of certain pregnancy problems. Their babies are also at higher risk of dying of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Smoking also causes addiction to nicotine, a stimulant drug that is in tobacco. Nicotine addiction makes it much harder for people to quit smoking.
What are the health risks of secondhand smoke?
Your smoke is also bad for other people - they breathe in your smoke secondhand and can get many of the same problems as smokers do. This includes heart disease and lung cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Mothers who breathe secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have preterm labor and babies with low birth weight.
Are other forms of tobacco also dangerous?
Besides cigarettes, there are several other forms of tobacco. Some people smoke tobacco in cigars and water pipes (hookahs). These forms of tobacco also contain harmful chemicals and nicotine. Some cigars contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes often look like cigarettes, but they work differently. They are battery-operated smoking devices. Using an e-cigarette is called vaping. Not much is known about the health risks of using them. We do know they contain nicotine, the same addictive substance in tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes also expose non-smokers to secondhand aerosols (rather than secondhand smoke), which contain harmful chemicals.
Smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is also bad for your health. Smokeless tobacco can cause certain cancers, including oral cancer. It also increases your risk of getting heart disease, gum disease, and oral lesions.
Why should I quit?
Remember, there is no safe level of tobacco use. Smoking even just one cigarette per day over a lifetime can cause smoking-related cancers and premature death. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of health problems. The earlier you quit, the greater the benefit. Some immediate benefits of quitting include
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Less carbon monoxide in the blood (carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen)
- Better circulation
- Less coughing and wheezing
NIH National Cancer Institute