An electronic cigarette[notes 1][1] is an electronic device that simulates tobacco smoking. It consists of an atomizer, a power source such as a battery, and a container such as a cartridge or tank. Instead of smoke, the user inhales vapor.[2] As such, using an e-cigarette is often called “vaping“.[3] The atomizer is a heating element that atomizes a liquid solution called e-liquid.[4] E-cigarettes are activated by taking a puff or pressing a button.[5][3] Some look like traditional cigarettes,[6][3] and most versions are reusable.[7]

E-cigarettes create an aerosol, commonly called vapor, made of particulate matter. The vapor typically contains propylene glycolglycerinnicotine, flavors, and traces of nitrosamines[8], other toxicantscarcinogens,[9] heavy metals, and metal nanoparticles.[10] Its exact composition varies, and depends on several factors including user behavior.[notes 2]

The health effects of electronic cigarettes remain uncertain,[11] but they are likely less harmful than smoking tobacco.[9][12] E-cigarette vapor contains fewer toxic chemicals, in lower concentrations, than cigarette smoke, but also contains harmful chemicals not found in tobacco smoke.[13]

Nicotine is highly addictive, and can be toxic at high levels, although poisoning is almost impossible when products are used as directed.[14] Young people are particularly susceptible to this, and most (90%) smokers start before the age of 18.[15] Among first-time users 32% of people who try nicotine become addicted.[16] People who vape are more likely to start smoking.[17] For smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit using conventional smoking cessation methods such as NRT, vaping has a role in tobacco harm reduction.

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