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Health Effects of E-Cigarettes (February 2016)

Issue brief #2 in a series of three on e-cigarettes

By Andrea N. Hinton, Linda J. Sheppard, J.D. | February 10, 2016

Health Effects of E-Cigarettes (February 2016)
Photo by adobestock.com

Recent reports about the sharp rise in e-cigarette use among teens and adults have raised questions about the potential health effects of their use and whether they are a safe alternative to traditional smoking. The Kansas Health Institute has released the second brief in a series on the topic of e-cigarettes: Health Effects of E-Cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used to inhale aerosol (vapor) that typically contains nicotine, and they are sold in many different styles, colors and flavors. E-cigarette vapor is created by heating a fluid mixture commonly called “e-liquid” or “e-juice,” which typically contains nicotine, chemical flavorings and additives such as glycerin or propylene glycol. 

Key points of the brief include:

  • The negative health effects of nicotine are well-documented, especially for children. Nicotine is generally harmful for the human brain, particularly during developing years. Nicotine poisoning also poses risk and can be deadly.
  • Many studies indicate that e-cigarette vapor is less harmful than conventional cigarette smoke.
  • Some components of e-liquid, particularly propylene glycol and flavor additives, may pose significant risk to users, and the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are not yet known.
  • Public health experts continue to debate whether e-cigarettes help with smoking cessation, reduce harm for smokers who are not ready to quit, or lead teens to begin using other forms of nicotine.

This series on e-cigarettes includes three briefs: 

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.