Understanding the risks of vaping

How safe are e-cigarettes?

Use of e-cigarettes or e-cigs is called “vaping,” which uses cartridges that are filled with liquid nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals, and is then heated into a vapor and inhaled. Starting in September 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been reporting on a nationwide outbreak of severe lung disease linked to vaping called vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI). This is also sometimes referred to as e-cigarette/vaping-associated lung injury (E/VALI).

Vaping-associated lung disease is on the rise

VAPI is a lung disease associated with the use of vaping products that can be severe and life-threatening. As of January 2020, a total of 2,668 hospitalized VAPI cases across the United States had been reported to the CDC.

Teens may be at greater risk

Individuals put themselves at risk every time they inhale a foreign substance into their lungs. The CDC warns that any use of tobacco products is unsafe, including e-cigarettes. Anyone who vapes is at risk for developing VAPI. However, there is a higher correlation between vaping products purchased from the black market and VAPI. This is especially concerning for teens as e-cigarette sales have been prohibited to those under 18 since 2016. As a result, some teens may be using the black market in order to vape.


VAPI symptoms are similar to lung infections like pneumonia and bronchitis, but individuals typically do not respond to antibiotic therapy. Those who are diagnosed with VAPI report the following symptoms:

  • Pleuritic chest pain (pain when breathing)
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss


Currently, there are no guidelines for the treatment of VAPI. Each patient is treated on a case-by-case basis.


The California Department of Health (CDPH) recommends avoiding vaping, regardless of what the substance or source of products are. For those looking to quit, Sharp HealthCare offers free smoking cessation classes.

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