Globally, the use of e-cigarettes among young people aged 17 and under is increasing most rapidly; in the United States, e-cigarettes have largely replaced conventional high school cigarettes. Despite their popularity, the health effects of e-cigarette use are little known.To address rising e-cig safety concerns, the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine convened an expert committee to conduct a critical, objective review of the peer-reviewed science available. The committee’s key findings were:
Adverse health effects of e-cigarette use: While data on the potential use of e-cigarettes for cancer promotion is not yet available, limited evidence from animal studies supports the hypothesis that long-term use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of cancer. There is no evidence in adults about the influence of e-cigarettes on respiratory disease, but there is moderate evidence that e-cigarette use increases coughing and exacerbates adolescent asthma. It is unknown how e-cigarette use affects pregnancy outcomes and fetal development.
Injuries and poisonings: Because of poor quality batteries or improper use and storage of devices, e-cigs can explode and cause burns and projectile injuries. Intentional or accidental e-liquid exposures (eye contact, skin contact or drinking) may result in seizures, anoxic brain injury, and other symptoms of poisoning. Drinking or injecting e-liquids intentionally or accidentally may be fatal.
Overall, more research on the short-and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes is urgently needed. Maximizing potential health benefits associated with e-cigarettes will require determining whether and under what conditions e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, discouraging youth use by educating and restricting access, regulating e-liquid content labeling, and increasing the safety of devices.