E-cigarettes are dangerous and their risks outweigh any potential smoking-cessation benefits, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) explained in a new two-page resource that analyzes the science and technology behind the devices.

Although e-cigarettes are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as tobacco cessation products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said they may help to reduce long-term effects of tobacco smoking when used as a substitute for traditional cigarettes. However, the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are not known, and their use carries certain risks, according to GAO’s report:

  • The popularity of e-cigarettes among young people may lead to traditional nicotine cigarette use and, therefore, nicotine addiction.
  • The toxicity of chemicals used in e-cigarettes have not been fully studied and, therefore, may pose risks to users.
  • Design and manufacturing vary substantially, which further complicates research and potentially puts users at risk.
  • Use of e-cigarettes affects indoor air quality, and they are difficult to dispose of and recycle, increasing the environmental burden.
  • Because the virus that causes the COVID-19 coronavirus affects the respiratory tract, e-cigarette smoking could put people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, although it requires further study.

GAO urged healthcare providers to share these important concepts in health education training.