Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are an emerging challenge for public health. These devices are part of a growing landscape of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that includes many different types of products, such as vape pens and e-hookahs. Despite differences in appearance, these devices are quite similar in function – they create an aerosol that can contain nicotine and other additives. Because the nicotine in these products is typically derived from tobacco, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. However, these proposals have not yet been implemented, and electronic cigarettes remain unregulated at the federal level.
The potential long-term benefits and risks associated with e-cigarette use are not currently known. What is known is that nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote nicotine addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use – making any use of these products among U.S. youth a major concern.