Health Risks of E-cigarettes, Smokeless Tobacco, and Waterpipes


Although cigarette smoking has been steadily—but slowly—declining in the United States, many different alternative tobacco and nicotine delivery products have been gaining popularity. This is partly because many alternative tobacco products—which come in various sizes, flavors, and forms—are marketed and often perceived as being relatively safe.

However, alternative tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and waterpipes may cause serious potential health problems, including cancer, because of the chemicals and toxins they contain. Because of these potential health risks, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will start regulating these products like other tobacco products, such as cigarettes, on August 8, 2016.


Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapor cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that resemble traditional cigarettes. However, instead of burning tobacco, they generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine and other chemicals. When the e-cigarette is used, the liquid chemicals in the cartridge are turned into a vapor or steam that is inhaled by the smoker.

E-cigarettes may contain harmful substances. However, the types or concentrations of chemicals, including nicotine, vary based on the brand. Because e-cigarettes have only been readily available in the United States since 2006, there is limited research on their health risks.

The FDA will start regulating e-cigarettes starting August 8, 2016 and has not approved e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. People with cancer who want to quit smoking should use evidence-based methods for quitting smoking.