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In recent years, electronic smoking devices (commonly referred to as e-cigarettes or "vapes") are becoming increasingly popular. There are concerns about the health risks and safety of these devices. Read on for answers to common questions about these products and links to resources to help you learn more.

 What are Electronic Smoking Devices?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery powered devices that convert nicotine, flavor additives and chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled. They are also referred to as electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, hookah pens, e-hookah, vaporizers, vapes, and mods. Some are disposable, while others are rechargeable and refillable. Below are examples:

EDevice1              EDevice2          EDevice3 

Are They Safe?

It is a common misconception that using e-cigarettes is safe because they are not a tobacco product. However, these products contain nicotine, toxins, and ultrafine particles that are emitted into the air and inhaled into the lungs. Though research emerging, these is evidence that e-cigarettes contain 10 chemicals on California's Proposition 65 list of substances that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm. Some of these chemicals include nickel, lead, formaldehyde, and benzene. For a full list and research on this topic, click here. While it is true that e-cigarettes contain fewer chemicals than a regular cigarette, there are still many toxins in them. SAFER DOESN'T MEAN SAFE!

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate how e-cigarettes are made. This is problematic because nicotine contents vary widely and may be higher or lower than reported on products labels. Further, there is no control over type or purity of additives. Since these products are fairly new,it might be years before long-term effects of their use are known or any regulatory or quality control measures are in place. 

What Are The Health Risks?

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol, which is a mixture of chemicals and particles that can hurt organ systems in the body, just like traditional cigarette smoke can. Early research shows that some health effects of using e-cigarettes include: upper respiratory issues, increased blood pressure, nausea, and more. Health impacts vary for each user, for example, one person may report the absence of their "smokers'" cough, while another may experience a sore throat. 

Why is the Nicotine E-Cigarettes Harmful?

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and that acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system. Specifically, it increases the heart rate and blood pressure and correspondingly the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Nicotine has been reported to be as addictive as other drugs of abuse, like heroin or cocaine or even more so. It produces dependency among 60% of those who use it regularly (smoke 100 cigarettes in a lifetime). Youth is especially susceptible to being hooked, especially young women who are often addicted within a week of first use.

EDevice JuiceWhat Is E-Juice?

E-juice or E-liquid refers to the contents inside the e-cigarette that gets turned into a vapor/aerosol. E-juices come in hundreds of flavors, many of which are meant to appeal to youth. In refillable e-cigarettes, users will drop the juice into the e-cigarette cartridge. Although there are no labeling requirements, studies have shown that the e-juice contains nicotine amounts that differ from what their package says.E-juice does not come in childproof caps, so it's important to keep them out of the reach of children.

Are E-Cigarettes Without Nicotine Safer?

E-cigarettes without nicotine still contain toxic chemicals and are inhaled into the body. Nearly 90% of EDSs contain nicotine therefore the non-nicotine products are rare. Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals increases a person's health risks, whether nicotine is present or not.

Are They Safe To Use Indoors?

E-cigarettes pollute the air with tiny particles that get trapped in the lungs. Just like regular cigarettes, the pollution from e-cigarettes may hurt others.

Can E-Cigarettes Help People Quit Smoking?

Studies have not scientifically proven that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking.  Current smokers that use ESDs to help them quit do not curb their nicotine addiction. They either switch from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes or more likely they develop a dual habit, using both products depending on the setting. In fact, their nicotine consumption may increase – due to inconsistent dose delivery. The use of these products may also delay quit attempts and lead former smokers to relapse back to nicotine dependency. While people may report success with quitting by using e-cigarettes, this is not a reliable method nor is it recommended by the U.S. Public Health Services. People interested in quitting can call the California Smoker's Helpline at 1-800- 662-8887 to learn about effective quitting techniques and nicotine replacement therapies and be directed to local resources.

Are There Any Restrictions on E-Cigarette Use or Sales? 

Use in California:

  • Currently there is no California or federal law that restricts where people can use e-cigarettes.
  • 75+ communities prohibit the use of e-cigarettes where cigarettes and/or tobacco products are prohibited. Restrictions are in both indoor and outdoor settings, depending on the community.

 Sale in California:

  • California law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors (California Health and Safety Code § 119405).
  • Currently, the California State Board of Equalization does not regulate retailers that solely sell electronic cigarettes. Therefore, these products are not taxed.

 The following communities in Santa Barbara have regulated e-cigarettes:

  • Buellton & Goleta: enclosed public places and work sites; 20 feet from where tobacco use is prohibited; outdoors at parks, service areas, and 75% of outdoor dining
  • Lompoc: enclosed public places and work sites; outdoors at parks
  • Santa Maria: enclosed public places, work sites, and 20ft. from government buildings
  • Solvang: enclosed public places and worksites
  • Unincorporated County Areas: recreational areas, except Lake Cachuma and Jalama Beach
  • Carpinteria & Goleta: E-cigarettes must be placed behind store counters like other tobacco prodcuts
  • Schools: Most elementary and secondary school districts

 FDA Regulation:

  • The FDA has recently proposed new regulations, but these are not in place yet.

 How Do I Protect My Family and Friends?

Research has shown that the use of e-cigarettes has sky rocketed over the past 10 years, especially among youth under 18. E-cigarette companies pour millions of dollars each year into marketing and promoting these products, with a specific emphasis on youth. Without regulations, e-cigarettes are often sold on store counter tops, next to candy and other youth-friendly snacks ESDs and the liquid for refilling vaporizers come in a wide range of youth-appealing flavors, such as, gummy bear, cookies and cream, etc. They are also using celebrity spokespeople to endorse and use the products and advertising with sex appeal and rebellion as their "hook". It is important to talk to your friends and family about e-cigarettes.

Keep E-cigarettes and E-Juice Away From Children

Never leave e-cigarettes or the e-liquid out where children can get to them. Immediately call the California Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 if a child swallows the liquid inside the e-cigarette, e-liquid vial, or it gets on their skin or in their eyes.

 Resources From Other Agencies, Organizations, and Groups

Download Educational Information

Questions or Comments?

Information and research about electronic cigarettes are constantly emerging. Please check back for updated information and resources. Please feel free to contact our program at (805) 681-5407 or phdtobacco@sbcphd.org with any questions, concerns, or to request a presentation, training or materials for your community organization or business.