E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students, and USB-shaped e-cigarettes are increasing in popularity. As kids prepare to return to school this year, parents and other youth influencers (e.g. teachers, coaches, faith leaders, health care providers) can learn about the risks of e-cigarettes among young people by reading the CDC feature article: Back to School Without E-cigarettes.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid. E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid. Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, while some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Larger e-cigarettes such as tank systems, or “mods,” do not resemble other tobacco products.

E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems.” Using an e-cigarette is sometimes called “vaping” or “JUULing.” 

Why are E-cigarettes Unsafe for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults?  

  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.
  • Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25.
  • Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
  • Each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains.  Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.
  • Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs. 

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