5 things to know about vaping


Over the last few years, we’ve all heard a lot about vaping. Especially its popularity among teens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked 2,807 lung injuries to vaping as of February 2020. And the agency has also linked vaping to 68 deaths across 29 states and Washington, D.C.

We’re shining a light on five things you need to know about this trend right now.

  1. Symptoms can vary. Coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea, fever, chills or weight loss – all could be symptoms of vaping illness. Some symptoms can appear over a few days. Others might appear over a few weeks.
  2. Vaping affects more than your lungs. Defective e-cigarette batteries can cause injuries. Including severe burns, fires and explosions. E-cigarette liquid has also poisoned children and adults.
  3. Vaping continues to be growing in popularity among teens. Two years ago, more than 3.6 million kids were vaping. In one year, vaping by high school students increased 78 percent. And vaping by middle school students increased 48 percent.
  4. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine – which is highly addictive. Nicotine itself is not known to cause cancer. But it is a stimulant that can cause health problems. A person’s brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. Nicotine can lead to permanent changes in the brain – affecting memory, learning and cognition. And it could increase the risk of addiction to other substances. Remember, too, that e-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances. E-cigarettes contain at least 60 potentially toxic chemicals. These can irritate your lungs and can cause lasting lung damage and disease.
  5. There’s no safe level of vaping. Research shows that e-cigarette vapor caused DNA damage in the lungs and bladder in mice exposed to the equivalent of three to six years of vaping. We’ve also seen research that shows that e-cigarette users’ oral tissue looks like that of cigarette smokers with cancer.

In Maryland, you have to be 21 to buy tobacco (unless you are 18 and serving in the military).

Decades ago, the cigarette industry touted their products’ safety as they marketed to teens. The first studies that linked smoking to lung cancer appeared in the 1920s. But the U.S. Surgeon General didn’t release the first report connecting smoking to lung cancer and chronic bronchitis until 1964.

We expect that we will also have to wait and see what the long-term effects of e-cigarettes will be.

Until then, we encourage you to talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping. It is just not worth the risk.


Stephen Cattaneo, MD, is a thoracic surgeon and medical director of Thoracic Oncology at AAMC.


Originally published Nov. 18, 2019. Last updated Nov. 9, 2020.