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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 (KHI) delivers objective information, conducts credible research, and supports civil dialogue enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as 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.