Health Risks of E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are still fairly new, and more research is needed over a longer period of time to know what the long-term health effects may be. The most important points to know are that the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown, and all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, can pose health risks to the user. For example, e-cigarettes can irritate the lungs and can have negative effects on the heart.

While the possible long-term health effects of e-cigarettes aren’t yet clear, there have been recent reports of serious lung disease in some people using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices. Symptoms have included:

  • Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever, or weight loss

Some cases have been severe enough to require hospitalization, and some people have died from their illness. However, it's not yet clear exactly how widespread these cases are, or if they all have the same cause. There are a huge number of different vaping devices on the market, and an even larger number of different chemicals (in the form of e-juice) that can be used in them, including ones that users sometimes add themselves. Many (but not all) of the illnesses have occurred in people who reported using modified devices that contained THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state health departments are looking into these cases to try to figure out what else they might have in common. For the latest information on this topic, see this notice from the CDC.

You can learn about answers to other questions about e-cigarettes in What Do We Know About E-cigarettes?

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Outbreak of Lung Illness Associated with Using E-cigarette Products. September 6, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html on September 9, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and Office on Smoking and Health. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2010. Publications and Reports of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US). Accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53017/
on November 15, 2018.

Drope J, Cahn Z, Kennedy R, Liber AC, Stoklosa M, Henson R, Douglas CE, Drope J. Key Issues Surrounding the Health Impacts of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Other Sources of Nicotine. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017;87(6):449-471. Accessed at https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21413 on November 15, 2018.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. Eaton DL, Kwan LY, Stratton K, eds. 2018. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Accessed at https://doi.org/10.17226/24952 on November 15, 2018. 

Last Medical Review: November 15, 2018 Last Revised: November 19, 2019

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