What is Vaping?

Vaping simulates smoking. Battery-powered vape devices create an aerosol that looks like water vapor but contains nicotine, flavoring, and more than 30 other chemicals. The aerosol is inhaled into the lungs where the nicotine and chemicals cross over into the bloodstream.

The earliest vape devices looked like cigarettes. Newer models look like a USB flash drive or small pod. 


Vapes come in many shapes and sizes but they have the same basic components, including a battery, sensor, and atomizer/ flavor cartridge. The e-liquid is quickly heated and converted to an aerosol that can be inhaled into the lungs.


Source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products Visual Dictionary 

WhatIsVaping_Icons_50x50WARNING: The nicotine liquid used in vape devices is poisonous when swallowed or absorbed through the skin or eyes. Exposure can cause redness, nausea, and vomiting. Vape devices and their components are not safe around children and should not be used in their presence.

WhatIsVaping_Icons_50x50-2WARNING: An average vape pod has as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Inhaling too much nicotine can cause seizures and convulsions. There have been reports of young people experiencing seizures after vaping.

WhatIsVaping_Icons_50x50-3WARNING: Vape devices can explode when their battery overheats. 

Vaping terms

Vaping has a vocabulary all its own.

Vape devices and components

  • Electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, or eGo
  • E-hookahs or hookah pens
  • JUULs, after the top-selling closed pod-based device that looks like a USB flash drive instead of a traditional cigarette or writing pen
  • Mods, which are larger open-system devices that are refillable and produce more vapor
  • Personal vaporizers or PVs
  • Vapes, vape pens, or vape sticks

Some vape devices are known as ENDS or electronic nicotine delivery systems.

The liquid that produces vapor comes in a pod or cartridge and may be called:

  • E-juice or e-liquid
  • Juice or smoke juice

Vape Terms

  • JUULing: Using a JUUL brand or similar small vape device
  • Dripping: Increasing the vapor amount and flavor by dripping e-juice directly onto the device

A person who uses a vape device of any kind is called a vaper.

Vaping Myths

Vaping helps people stop smoking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not found vaping to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. One study1 found that vaping was more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies (like nicotine patches) in helping people quit cigarettes. However, most people kept vaping after they stopped using cigarettes, so they were still getting nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. The study also noted that vaping may make teens more likely to start smoking. 

1 Hajek P, Phillips-Waller A, Przulj D, et al. A randomized trial of E-cigarettes versus nicotine-replacement therapy. N Engl J Med. 2019;380:629–37.

Vaping is safer than smoking.
Cigarettes contain poisons, toxic metals, and carcinogens that enter the body with every puff. Vapers also breathe in dangerous chemicals, such as acetone, which is used as a solvent. Acetone may irritate the skin and eyes when you come into contact with it. Other chemicals in vapes may cause cancer over time.

Vaping produces harmless water vapor.
Even though the term ‘vapor’ is normally used, vape devices do not produce water vapor. Vaping produces an aerosol mist. Unlike water vapor, the aerosol mist includes ultra-fine particles that are breathed into the lungs. 

Vaping Chemicals Poster- not water vapor

Vaping doesn’t create second-hand smoke.
Breathing in second-hand smoke is a health risk for people who are around cigarette smokers, including vapers. In addition, third-hand smoke on clothes and furniture is smelly and can be dangerous for people with respiratory conditions. Vaping doesn’t produce the same smelly fumes as cigarettes, but the secondhand vapor contains chemicals and compounds that pollute the indoor air. Even though you may not smell it, third-hand particulates cling to surfaces and dust and can be breathed deep into the lungs or absorbed through the skin.

It’s easy to quit vaping.
One vape pod delivers as much addictive nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Vaping trains the brain to expect more nicotine and creates the desire to vape even more. The teen brain is especially susceptible to the effects of nicotine. That makes it harder to stop vaping and also increases the chance that teens will go on to become smokers, too. Learn more about how to help your teen quit when they are ready.