E-Cigarettes & Vaping

What is an E-Cigarette?

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,” “vapes,” “mods,” and Juul® . Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping” or “Juuling.” The e-cigarette is reusable with new cartridges or liquid refills depending on the brand and model. Vapes can also be used with marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). E-cigarettes typically operate on a rechargeable lithium ion battery.

E-Cigarette Dangers

E-Cig vapor may contain nicotine, VOCs, heavy metals, carcinogens, flavoring and ultrafine particles
E-Cigarette vapor may contain harmful substances, image courtesy OHA

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.

Vaping Related Lung Illness Investigation

The Oregon Poison Center is working with local and state public health partners in Oregon to track and monitor the nationwide outbreak of respiratory illnesses associated with use of vaping devices and e-cigarettes. Symptoms of E-Cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) include, cough, chest pain and trouble breathing after vaping. If you feel sick after vaping seek medical attention immediately. If you have questions about how vaping affects your health, contact your doctor or call the poison center 1-800-222-1222. Visit Oregon Health Authority or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for more information about EVALI.

OHA EVALI graphic

E-Cigarette Safety Tips - Poison Prevention

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.

Safety Tips:

  • 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.
  • 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

Dripping, a new vaping trend

Dripping is an alternative way to vape, a trend common among young e-cig users. This process occurs when nicotine liquid (with or without flavor) is heated up directly on the battery-operated coil and vapors are inhaled by the user. Traditional vaping utilizes the device's filter where some of the liquid is trapped before inhalation. According to one study, teens drip to produce thicker vapor, get a stronger hit and enhance flavor. Dripping is a concern among health professionals because the vape liquid is vaporized at a higher temperature and the filter is bypassed, thus potentially amplifying the effects of the vape's hazardous ingredients.  

Youth Vaping Epidemic

OHA Graphic, E-Cigarettes Dangerous for teens
Infographic courtesy, Oregon Health Authority

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. Read Oregon Health Authority's 2019 Data Brief on the Youth Vaping Crisis.

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. Visit Alaska Department of Health webpage on E-Cigarettes for more information.

Read the Surgeon General's Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth.

Talk with your Teens

OHA Graphic what parents can do to prevent their kids from vaping
Parents and adult role models can be a positive influence in a teen's decision to quit vaping.

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:

Videos for Parents & Teens

Electronic cigarettes and vaping video for youth from David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA
Any volunteers? The risk of e-cigarettes for young people from CDC
Vaping: Do you what's inside? Educational video for students, courtesy Upstate New York Poison Center
Vaping: Is it worth it? Educational video for parents, courtesy Upstate New York Poison Center

E-Cigarette Disposal

Don't Toss that E-Cig

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

Ready to Quit Vaping?

Oregon Tobacco Quit Line Teen Program is Free to any Oregonian 13 years or older

If you or a loved one is ready to quit smoking, vaping, or using e-cigarettes, free support is available.

Quit Resources for Teens:

Quit Resources by State:

  • Oregon's Tobacco Quit Line - a free telephone and web-based counseling service to help Oregonians quit using tobacco and nicotine products. 1-800-QUIT-NOW | 1-800-784-8669
    • Download or view Oregon Tobacco Quit Line Teen Program poster.
  • Alaska's Tobacco Quit Line - free telephone, web and text based support for Alaskans interested in quitting tobacco. It's Free. It's Confidential. And it works. 1-800-QUIT-NOW | 1-800-784-8669