Debunking 4 Common Myths About E-cigarettes and Vaping


Vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-vaporizers, or electronic nicotine delivery systems are becoming familiar terms. Since they first were introduced to the public, they have become wildly popular in many shapes and sizes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020 nearly 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. They also report that 14.9% of adults have reported using e-cigarettes.

The devices used to vape contain a battery used to warm the e-liquid in the prefilled pod or refillable tank. You can use certain products again and again by replacing the tank with your choice of e-liquid or changing the pod. Many of the e-liquids available are flavored and most people believe it is much safer than smoking cigarettes. The popular product JUUL is a brand name vaping device that looks like a USB flash drive.

Jeanie Foley, RN, BSN, St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Institute prevention and wellness program manager, says that the truth behind vaping is clouded in myths and clever marketing.

Myth #1 – Electronic cigarettes only contain water and flavoring

“Many people feel vaping isn’t bad for them,” says Foley. “The aerosol you are inhaling contains dangerous chemicals.”

The liquid used in these devices contains nicotine, as well as flavorings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other ingredients. The liquid is heated to create an aerosol that you inhale. The aerosol can produce toxic particles such as nickel, chromium, and lead. These can cause permanent lung damage and even cancer. You can also get off-market products that contain marijuana and THC concentrates.

Myth #2 – They don’t contain nicotine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that 99% of e-liquid sold in the United States contains nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive, so what starts as “casual use“ can develop into serious nicotine addiction.

“Many e-liquids have a higher concentration of nicotine,” says Foley. “Many products that have been marketed as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.”

Myth #3 – Vaping with electronic devices is a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes

“Not only do the vaping liquids contain nicotine and other cancer-causing chemicals, but it can also cause what is known as popcorn lung,” says Foley.

Popcorn lung is a nickname for a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. This damages your lung airways and leaves you short of breath. It can be caused by breathing in the same flavoring used in microwave popcorn and a chemical found in the e-liquids. As of February 2020, the CDC reported that there had been almost 3,000 hospitalizations of serious lung injury resulting from vaping products.

Myth #4 – Vaping with electronic devices will help you quit smoking

“Studies show that young people who start vaping may become traditional tobacco users down the road,” says Foley. “And people who were traditional smokers first, report that they transitioned back to cigarettes even though they started vaping.”

Some of the e-liquid sold contains the nicotine equal to an entire pack of cigarettes. It is dangerous to let the flavor of vaping fool you into believing it is safe. The most successful way to quit smoking long-term is through a combination of medication and support. It is important to work with your doctor to find the right treatment for you.

For more information

If you want to quit vaping, there are resources to help you. If you are over 18 years of age, you can join the St. Elizabeth Freshstart Program, a free 4-week smoking cessation program developed by the American Cancer Society and designed to help you take charge of your efforts to quit smoking.

Sign up for the Freshstart Smoking Cessation program by calling (859) 391-5570 or visiting St. Elizabeth Healthcare for upcoming class dates. We offer both daytime and evening classes at a variety of locations to fit your busy schedule.