Is vaping bad for your mental health?

Vaping with or without nicotine has been shown to impact impulse control, especially in young adults whose brains have not fully developed yet. Some of these risks include mood disorders and permanent damage to parts of the brain responsible for memory, emotion and critical thinking. View our informative videos, as well as the resources below to understand the full impact of vaping on mental health and the brain.

Whether you are a teen or young adult, a parent, or even an ex-smoker, you’ve probably wondered: Is vaping bad for you?
Although some of this data is still up for debate, recent mental health findings show that vaping has negative side effects on a user’s mental health. Use our resources to get a grasp on how vaping could affect you or a loved one’s mental health and well being.

Is Vaping as Bad as Smoking?

Private and federally funded tests have found that the same chemicals that make cigarettes so dangerous are also present in e-cigarette products. When the liquid cartridges of “harmless water vapor” are heated into an aerosol, some of the non-dangerous components (like propylene glycol) go through a chemical change and become dangerous to ingest (like formaldehyde gas). Along with these cancer-causing chemicals, the metal pieces from the coil can break off during the same process and leave “whiskers” of dangerous particles to be inhaled.

Dangerous substances in E-cigarettes include:

  • Nicotine: 99.6% of e-cigarette products contain nicotine, and even products listed as “nicotine-free” may still contain nicotine as the FDA does not regulate them.
  • Ultrafine particles: these can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause scarring and popcorn lung.
  • Volatile organic and non-organic compounds: these are found in items like rat poison, car exhaust, antifreeze, and chemicals used to preserve dead tissue (arsenic, benzene, glycol and formaldehyde).
  • Heavy metals: many vapes and e-cigs can contain nickel, tin and lead, which pose serious health risks when ingested.
  • Flavorings: most flavors are made with chemicals such as diacetyl which are linked to serious lung diseases.

What is an E-Cigarette?

E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also referred to as vapes, vape pens, e-pens, and e-cigs. They consist of three parts: a rechargeable battery, and the pre-filled or refillable cartridge and a heating element.

The e-liquid in the cartridge contains nicotine, chemical flavorings, and additives including propylene glycol (found in ENDS cartridges with or without nicotine).

Nicotine & Non-Nicotine Side Effects of Vaping

99.6% of e-cig products contain nicotine, meaning almost every vape has nicotine. Using nicotine as a teen can change the way synapses are formed in the developing brain, harming the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.

This means increased nicotine use may make it harder for young adults to concentrate, learn, and control impulses. Review the dangers of vaping with nicotine and any additional dangers of vaping, regardless of whether nicotine is present.

Do Vapes Have Nicotine?

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) are not FDA approved or regulated, which means many of the e-liquids and cartridges or pods may contain more or less nicotine than the label states. This includes liquids labeled “nicotine-free.”

Dangers of Vaping With Nicotine

  • Nicotine addiction: nicotine found in vapes can prime an adolescent brain for substance abuse, including addiction to tobacco, meth, cocaine and other hard drugs.
  • Poisonous to brain development: nicotine use in adolescent brains can lead to long-term damage and effects including mood disorders and permanent impulse control issues.
  • Defective batteries: For vapes with and without nicotine, there is always the threat of a fire or explosion caused by vape malfunction that can result in serious injuries.
  • Severe illness or death: if e-liquids are swallowed or absorbed into the skin, there can be life-threatening consequences.

Dangers of Vaping Without Nicotine

  • Chemical changes: the delivery agent in vapes with or without nicotine (propylene glycol) can be harmless to begin with, but when heated, it changes to formaldehyde gas, a probable carcinogen.
  • Other harmful chemicals in e-liquids: the flavorings contain diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung diseases and irreversible damage like popcorn lung.
  • Defective batteries: for vapes with and without nicotine there is always the threat of a fire or explosion caused by vape malfunction that can result in serious injuries.
  • Severe illness or death: if e-liquids are swallowed or absorbed into the skin, there can be life-threatening consequences.

Looking for Resources to Share With Teens?

76% of Minnesota students were unaware of the health risks of using e-cigarettes. It’s time to have a conversation, but it’s important to do so without criticism or harsh lecturing. With the right resources, you can provide answers in a positive way and work together to build awareness and promote a change.

Allina Health Resources

Get additional support to quit or help others quit e-cigarettes and nicotine. Allina Health offers tobacco intervention programs at our supporting hospitals in and around Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as cessation programs and alternative healing methods.

Need Help Breaking Your Vaping Habit?

Allina Health has many vaping resources for teens to help them quit their vaping habit. With pressure from friends and the stress of life as a teenager, vaping may seem like a good escape, but many teens don’t realize the big picture when it comes to how it can affect their health.

Although vaping may seem like a better alternative to cigarettes, they are a tobacco product that can damage parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, emotion and thinking. Vaping has also been linked to respiratory issues, including chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, cough and excess mucus. Quitting isn’t easy, but community resources and your own personal support system can make the process just a little easier.

Resources to Help You Quit

If you’re struggling to cope with your vaping addiction, here are some resources that can help:

Quit Partner

1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or

Teens: text “Start My Quit” to 1-855-891-9989 or call to talk with a coach

Minnesota Department of Health
Online tobacco cessation support
Chantix® GetQuit Support plan

1-877-CHANTIX (1-877-242-6849) or

Financial aid for Chantix® or Nicotrol® inhaler
Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center’s Residential Treatment Program
Plant Extracts aromatherapy