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Vaping, Teens & Pregnancy | Overview

What is vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling the aerosol from an e-cigarette. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals directly to the lungs. They can be refillable or disposable.

They are also known as:

  • electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)
  • e-devices
  • e-pens
  • e-hookahs
  • vape pipes
  • vape pens
  • dab pens
  • dab rigs
  • juice
  • JUULs
  • mods
  • pod-mods
  • cigalikes

What is in the vaping aerosol?

The aerosol that is inhaled from the e-cigarette is not water vapor. In fact, the "vapor" contains cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals, nicotine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ultrafine particles, and flavorings known to cause lung damage.

Watch: A vaping demonstration video

Aerosol inhaled from an e-cigarette is not only water vapor. It contains chemicals that are dangerous to health. This short video shows the difference between e-cigarette aerosol and the water vapor produced in a shower using a common air quality meter.

E-cigarette aerosol is not water vapor

Additional truths about vaping

  1. Higher nicotine absorption: E-cigarettes are made to get more nicotine into the bloodstream, with less irritation, than regular cigarettes.
  2. Labeling problems: Some products labeled as 0% nicotine actually had nicotine in them when tested in a lab.
  3. Poisoning: Adults and children can be poisoned by vape juice by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing the liquid through skin and eyes. If you have concerns, call the Poison Help Hotline at 800-222-1222.
  4. COVID-19: People who vape have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than those who do not use e-cigarettes.

If you have concerns or if someone has ingested nicotine, especially a child, call the Poison Help hotline immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Vaping and teens

How are teens affected by vaping?

Nicotine use by teens can lead to problems with attention and learning, mood disorders, impulse control, and addiction. Human brains are not fully developed until age 25. When children and teens vape:

  • they can become dependent on nicotine very quickly, even from a one-time use
  • the dependence can be longer and stronger than for an adult.

Your teen may show signs of nicotine withdrawal when they can’t use their vape. These are some the symptoms of withdrawal:

  • cravings to vape
  • anxiety
  • tingling
  • nausea
  • cramps
  • weight gain
  • insomnia
  • mood disorders
  • depression

Could your teen be vaping?

The Surgeon General reported that vaping by high school students increased 900 percent from 2011 to 2015, bypassing all other tobacco products. In 2019, more than one in every four middle and high students reported vaping at least once. 

Teens and vaping

Vaping and pregnancy

What are the potential effects on a baby?

Early data shows the following, but more studies are still needed.

  • reduced learning ability
  • small birth size
  • low birth weight
  • harm brain function
  • hurt heart and lungs

Recommendations and resources

Recommendations

If you are pregnant and vape or use other tobacco products, it is in the best interest of your health and the health of your baby to quit. If you or your child is vaping, or using any nicotine products, it also is in the best interest of your health to quit. The following resources are available to help.

  1. Talk to your doctor or trusted health professional.
  2. Text “quit” to 202-804-9884 for free support.
  3. Seek professional health from a therapist, health coach, or tobacco treatment specialist.
  4. Contact your local PEHSU.
  5. Enroll in a tobacco or nicotine cessation program. Many employers and health insurers offer a quit program.
  6. Search the resources below for more information.

Resources and more information

References for our vaping and pregnancy factsheet

Adams, S. H., Park, M. J., Schaub, J. P., Brindis, C. D., & Irwin, C. E., Jr. (2020). Medical vulnerability of young adults to severe COVID-19 illness - data from the national health interview survey. Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.06.025

Allen, J. G., Flanagan, S. S., LeBlanc, M., Vallarino, J., McNaughton, P., Stewart, J. H., & Christiani, D. C. (2016). Flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes: Diacetyl, 2,3-Pentanedione, and acetoin in a sample of 51 products, including fruit-, candy-, and cocktail-flavored e-cigarettes. Environmental Health Perspective. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510185

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 21). Electronic Cigarettes. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm

Cheng, T. (2014). Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes. Tobacco Control, 11–17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051482

Doubeni, C. A., Reed, G., & DiFranza, J. R. (2010). Early course of nicotine dependence in adolescent smokers. Pediatrics, 125(6), 1127. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079339/

Gaiha, S. M., Chang, J., & Halpern-Felsher, B. (2020). Association between youth smoking, electronic cigarette use, and coronavirus disease 2019. Journal of Adolescent Health, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.07.002

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020a). Monitoring the future study: Trends in prevalence of various drugs for 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders (December 17, 2020). NIH. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/tobacconicotine-vaping/tobacconicotine-vaping-trends-statistics

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020b, January 8). Vaping devices (electronic cigarettes) drug facts. National institute of drug abuse. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/vaping-devices-electronic-cigarettes

Orleans, C. T. (1994). Nicotine addiction: principles and management (J. Slade, Ed.). Oxford University Press.

Rubenstein, M. L., Delucchi, K., & Benowitz, N. L. (2018). Adolescent exposure to toxic volatile organic chemicals from e-cigarettes. Pediatrics, 141(4). http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/4/e20173557.short

Truth Initiative. (2021, June 15). E-cigarettes: Facts, stats and regulations. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

Vas, C. A., Porter, A., & McAdam, K. (2019). Acetoin is a precursor to diacetyl in e-cigarette liquids. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 133, Article 110727. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2019.110727

Wylie, B. J., Hauptman, M., Hacker, M. R., & Hawkins, S. S. (2021). Understanding rising electronic cigarette use. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 137(3), 521–527.