E-Cigarettes and Vaping

E-cigarettes create dangerous liquid vapor, cause injuries

An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that heats liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The devices come in various shapes and sizes and are known by different names including “e-cigs” and “vapes.”  Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping,” The e-cigarette is typically reusable with new cartridges or liquid refills depending on the brand and model. E-cigarettes typically operate on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Vapes can also be used with marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). New 'pod-mod' style vape products are similar in shape and size to JUUL® and other vape sticks but are disposable. 

E-Cig vapor may contain nicotine, VOCs, heavy metals, carcinogens, flavoring and ultrafine particles
E-Cigarette vapor may contain harmful substances, like nicotine, harmful flavoring, cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds, ultrafine particles and heavy metals. This graphic, courtesy Oregon Health Authority, demonstrates the harms associated with the vapor breathed by a dark-haired person in a blue shirt.

Why are we concerned about e-cigarettes and vaping? In short, the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid have caused users health problems. The health effects of e-cigarettes are still being studied but nicotine addiction, harmful chemical additives, battery explosions causing injury, acute nicotine poisoning and vaping related lung injury have all been linked to use of e-cigarettes and vaping.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and their repeated use can lead to nicotine addiction or increase the user's risk of addiction. Some e-cigarette brands contain nicotine salts to mask the harshness of nicotine and make it more palatable. As of 2018, all tobacco products must bear the required nicotine addictiveness warning statement on product packages and advertisements in order to warn consumers about the presence of and addictive nature of nicotine. 

The vapor produced by e-cigarettes usually contains nicotine, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals), and in some cases, flavoring linked to serious lung disease. These and other harmful substances present in e-cigarette vapor can negatively affect the respiratory health of users.

Vape pen and e-cigarette explosions from overheated, defective and/or modified device batteries have occurred, causing injury and serious health problems to users. Learn more about how to avoid vape battery explosions from the FDA or download the FDA's tips for avoiding battery explosions. 

Poisoning from nicotine and e-cigarette liquid can occur by drinking it, spilling it on the skin, and breathing too much vapor. Cases of accidental eye exposure have also been reported as refill bottles are similar to commercially available eye dropper bottles used for therapeutic eye drops. Review our poison prevention tips below.

Prevent poisonings from e-cigarettes

Prevent accidental poisoning from e-cigarettes and vape products. Store these products safely to protect yourself and any children in and around the home from accidental exposure.

  • Store e-cigarette products and refills separately from any medications, eye drops and food.
  • Always store e-cigarette products and refills up, away and out of sight of kids. Because these products may smell or look like kid-friendly foods, they may be especially tempting to touch or taste.
  • Do not repackage refill liquid into drinking bottles or cups. This increases the risk of accidents and swallowing the liquid by mistake.
  • Use caution when refilling or handling liquids. Wash your hands with soap and water and clean up any spills immediately.
  • Call the poison center in case of exposure 1-800-222-1222

The youth vaping epidemic affects Oregon, Alaska youth

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth. Vape flavors like mint and mango appeal to young people and mask the harshness of nicotine. The small, discreet size of vapes and e-cigarettes make them easy to conceal at school and home. The bottom line is e-cigarettes and vapes are unsafe for kids, teens and young adults. Nicotine is harmful to the developing brain and the use of e-cigarettes as a teen increases the likelihood of smoking cigarettes as an adult. The chemical additives and flavoring can also cause unwanted health effects.

Oregon is a Tobacco 21 state. Effective in 2018, Oregon raised the purchase age from 18 to 21 for e-cigarettes and tobacco products. However, middle and high school students continue to use e-cigarettes and vapes at concerning rates. New data released by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) show one in four Oregon 11th graders report vaping a nicotine product in the last 30 days. Youth e-cigarettes use increased nearly 80% between 2017-2019. The Oregon Health Authority's 2019 Data Brief on the Youth Vaping Crisis further describes the state of the youth vaping epidemic in Oregon.

In 2015, 18% of Alaska's high schoolers were using e-cigarettes. Statewide, Alaskans must be 19 to legally purchase tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. The legal age to purchase tobacco products is 21 in the cities of Anchorage and Sitka. For more information, about e-cigarette use in Alaska, visit the Alaska Department of Health​​​​​​.

Talking points for parents

Talk with your teens about the health effects of nicotine and e-cigarettes. You can influence their decision to quit vaping or choice not to use e-cigarettes. Protect their health and their future by equipping yourself with information for this important conversation.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free yourself. Looking to quit tobacco? Scroll down to view our quit resources.
  • Equip yourself with the basics but know you don't need to have all the answers.
  • Know that facts alone won't be the determining factor for your teen.
  • Be curious. Ask questions about what they know and why they think adults might be worried about teen vaping.

Additional Resources:

Don't toss that e-cigarette in the trash

Protect the environment and ensure safe disposal of e-cigarette products by discarding them properly. Vapes, e-cigarettes, refills and cartridges should be treated like hazardous waste and taken to your local hazardous waste facility or hazardous waste collection event for disposal. Always remove the device's battery before dropping off to prevent unintentional burns, fires, and explosions.

Resources for residents living in the Portland - Metro Area: Ask Metro Recycling Information Center | 503-234-3000 | Find a recycler