An updated overview of e-cigarette impact on human health

Respir Res. 2021 May 18;22(1):151. doi: 10.1186/s12931-021-01737-5.


The electronic cigarette (e-cigarette), for many considered as a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes, has revolutionised the tobacco industry in the last decades. In e-cigarettes, tobacco combustion is replaced by e-liquid heating, leading some manufacturers to propose that e-cigarettes have less harmful respiratory effects than tobacco consumption. Other innovative features such as the adjustment of nicotine content and the choice of pleasant flavours have won over many users. Nevertheless, the safety of e-cigarette consumption and its potential as a smoking cessation method remain controversial due to limited evidence. Moreover, it has been reported that the heating process itself can lead to the formation of new decomposition compounds of questionable toxicity. Numerous in vivo and in vitro studies have been performed to better understand the impact of these new inhalable compounds on human health. Results of toxicological analyses suggest that e-cigarettes can be safer than conventional cigarettes, although harmful effects from short-term e-cigarette use have been described. Worryingly, the potential long-term effects of e-cigarette consumption have been scarcely investigated. In this review, we take stock of the main findings in this field and their consequences for human health including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Keywords: COVID-19; E-cigarette; Electronic cigarette; Flavourings; Humectants; Nicotine; Smoking cessation tool; Tobacco; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / metabolism
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Flavoring Agents / adverse effects*
  • Flavoring Agents / metabolism
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Vaping / adverse effects*
  • Vaping / epidemiology*
  • Vaping / metabolism


  • Flavoring Agents