E-cigarettes: How risky are they?

(updated 29 January 2020)

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©WHO

Are e-cigarettes and other vaping products dangerous?

There are many different types of e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are the most common form of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) but there are others, such as e-cigars, e-pipes, etc. ENDS contain varying amounts of nicotine and harmful emissions.

Do e-cigarettes (ENDS) cause lung injuries?

There is growing evidence that ENDS could be associated with lung injuries and in recent times e-cigarette and vaping have been linked to an outbreak of lung injury in the USA. This is described by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as ‘e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury’ (EVALI), which led the CDC to activate an emergency investigation into EVALI on 17 September 2019.

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©WHO

Are e-cigarettes more or less dangerous than conventional tobacco cigarettes?

It is difficult to generalize on the risk to health of ENDS as compared with cigarettes or other tobacco products, as this is contingent on a range of factors.

Are ENDS addictive?

ENDS contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and ENDS use involves the inhalation of a nicotine-infused aerosol.

Are secondhand ENDS emissions dangerous?

The aerosols generated by ENDS typically contain toxic substances. ENDS pose risks to both users and non-users.

What are the policy options for regulating ENDS?

How a country approaches ENDS will depend on factors particular to its situation. ENDS are currently banned in over 30 countries worldwide. In others they are regulated as consumer products, as pharmaceutical products, as tobacco products, other categories or totally unregulated.

  • Minimizing as far as possible potential health and/or risks to ENDS users, such as by regulating product characteristics
  • Protecting non-users from exposure to their emissions, such as by prohibiting ENDS use in indoor spaces where smoking is not permitted
  • Preventing unproven health claims
  • Protecting public health policies from commercial and other vested interests

What role do ENDS play in smoking cessation?

The scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of ENDS as a smoking cessation aid is still being debated. To date, in part due to the diversity of ENDS products and the low certainty surrounding many studies, the potential for ENDS to play a role as a population-level tobacco cessation intervention is unclear.

What is WHO doing about ENDS?

WHO regularly monitors and reviews the evidence on ENDS and health and offers guidance to governments.

What further information is available?

Links to WHO reports with further information on e-cigarettes or ENDS to which the reader can refer are provided below:

World Health Organization

Official Medium site of the World Health Organization. Visit us at who.int.

World Health Organization

Written by

Official Medium channel of the World Health Organization, the United Nations' health agency

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

World Health Organization

Written by

Official Medium channel of the World Health Organization, the United Nations' health agency

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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