E-Cigarette Toxicity?

Gulay Tegin, MD; Hema Madhuri Mekala, MD; Simrat Kaur Sarai, MD; Steven Lippmann, MD


South Med J. 2018;111(1):35-38. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality. In just a few short years, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have become increasingly popular, especially for younger individuals. Many people believe that e-cigarettes are safe. The inhaled aerosols of e-cigarettes contain numerous potential toxicities, some of which could be dangerous for health with long-term use. The safety of prolonged aerosol exposure is not known. The use of e-cigarettes as a harm-reduction tool at stopping tobacco smoking is not uniformly successful. E-cigarettes may be safer than tobacco products, but repeated prolonged exposure to their aerosols has its own considerable potential risk. The long-term health consequences of their use remain to be established. Physicians should vigorously discourage the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products, with special emphasis on abstinence for younger people and during pregnancy or lactation.


Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality.[1] Substances present in tobacco cigarette smoke such as arsenic, lead, benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are established as toxic to human health.[2] In the United States, the incidence of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) consumption has increased dramatically, and health concerns focus especially on young people.[3] Approximately 70% of smokers want to quit using tobacco products; however, only 32% use effective methods.[4] There are a wide variety of ways to quit cigarette smoking; using willpower to stop is one method. There also are nicotine replacement strategies, pharmacotherapies, support systems, and behavioral or psychological interventions.

E-cigarette use is an increasingly popular approach that numerous people try to stop smoking. Although helpful for many of them, e-cigarettes, as a harm-reduction technique to stop tobacco, are not universally effective; nevertheless, for certain individuals they can be a successful means toward cessation. Unfortunately, some smokers subsequently use both products with the collective risks induced by co-utilization.[5] There is uncertainty about long-term e-cigarette health effects. Only after years of experience and more research will the true health consequences of inhaling e-cigarette aerosols be understood.