A review of toxic effects of electronic cigarettes/vaping in adolescents and young adults

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2020 Jul;50(6):531-538. doi: 10.1080/10408444.2020.1794443. Epub 2020 Jul 27.


In this review, we examine the known and suspected toxicity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in adolescents and young adults, to improve awareness of risks and identification of complications of their use. The use of e-cigarettes, or "vaping," is exploding among the pediatric population. E-cigarettes heat a solution containing a psychoactive compound, most commonly nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), along with flavorings and other additives to a vapor, which users inhale. Since their introduction in the early 2000s, e-cigarette use is now prolific among youth, per the Monitoring the Future survey, with over 40% of high school seniors reporting use within the past year. Adolescents are vulnerable to the risks of e-cigarettes, as they are targeted as new consumers with advertisements and flavoring compounds, and are not utilizing them as a means to smoking cessation. The pulmonary risks of vaping are rapidly emerging, with the most immediately alarming being the condition electronic-cigarette/vaping associated lung injury (EVALI). Additionally, there have been more recent studies showing extrapulmonary effects including cardiovascular, immunologic and neuro-developmental effects. Many of these effects are likely dose-dependent. Public health efforts are urgently needed to decrease or eliminate new e-cigarette initiation, and support should be established to assist current e-cigarette users with cessation. We strongly advocate for the elimination of e-cigarette flavorings and advertising directed at adolescents, and call for physicians to be cognizant of this expanding epidemic.

Keywords: EVALI; THC; addiction; adolescents; e-cigarette; electronic cigarettes; nicotine; tetrahydrocannabinol; tobacco; vaping associated lung injury; young adults.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Flavoring Agents / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Vaping / adverse effects*


  • Flavoring Agents