Girl holding a box vape while exhaling vapor on a cold day.

While vaping can serve as an alternative to cigarette smoking, it still poses inherent risks, especially for young adults. Most vape products contain nicotine, the same highly addictive chemical found in cigarettes.

Some ingredients in vape oils like propylene glycol, glycerol and heavy metal particles can damage the lining of your lungs. Given the outbreak of lung disease in the U.S. last year and the current threat of respiratory illness from COVID-19, vapes should be used with caution.

If you choose to vape, here are 5 things you should know:

1: Labels are important

While most vape oils contain nicotine, there are a number of options available that are nicotine-free. These can be a better alternative for those who vape but want to avoid the addictive effects. If you do choose to use nicotine-based products, look for lower-dose options (1.5-3 mg). Opting for lower nicotine levels can help to satisfy cravings without overloading your system.

2: Not all vapes are equal

Dosage matters, but the device you use is just as important. Power (wattage) can vary from device to device. Knowing the wattage of your device can help you make better decisions around dosage. High-powered devices (20+ watts), should be used with low dose oils (less than 3 mg) in order to reduce adverse side effects.

3: Everyone has different limits

It’s important to know your limits when it comes to nicotine, especially if you are new to nicotine. Your tolerance may not be as high as those that use more regularly, so start slow. Consuming too much nicotine can cause negative side effects, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach ache
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Sweating

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

If you experience any of these symptoms within the first 15-60 minutes of vaping, call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, and follow-up with your healthcare provider.

You may also want to consider reducing how often and how much you vape, which can reduce the chances of unwanted health consequences. If you’re a regular smoker or tobacco user, consider lowering your nicotine dose by at least one level when vaping.

4: Sharing isn’t caring

Sharing isn’t caring, especially during a pandemic. Not only are you at risk of spreading the virus, but it can also expose you to a number of other diseases like the cold, flu, mono or meningitis, which can all be transferred from person to person through saliva. Sharing with friends may also mean you’re getting higher doses of nicotine than you’re used to. Keep yourself healthy and safe by using your own vape and keeping it clean.

5: Vape products require special disposal

Did you know vape products are considered hazardous materials and should never be thrown away in normal trash or recycling bins? Devices, pods and batteries can be disposed of in designated drop boxes. Drop boxes are available in the Health Promotion office on the 3rd floor of Wardenburg Health Center and at the West Boulder Recycling Center on 63rd Street.

If you’re looking to quit, CU Boulder has resources to help. Health Promotion offers a free nicotine cessation program for students. The program includes free quit kits, consultations and tips for overcoming cravings. Call 303-492-2937 to schedule an appointment.

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