Person holding a vape pen outside in front of a grassy lawn.

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

In addition to nicotine, many vape oils contain ingredients like propylene glycol, glycerol and heavy metal particles that can damage the lining of your lungs. For this reason, vapes should be used with caution.

If you choose to vape, here are 6 things you should know.


1: Be intentional about vaping

Whether you currently vape or are thinking about starting, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the reasons you may choose to vape. This can help you have more of the experiences you want (and avoid those you don’t).

First, think about the feelings, actions or benefits you want to experience from using (or not using) vapes. Next, think through some of the things you don’t want to experience. Here are a few examples to help get you started:

If I choose to vape, I want to:

  • reduce my cigarette use
  • socialize with friends
  • feel buzzed
  • enjoy the flavor

If I choose to vape, I don’t want to:

  • become addicted or dependent on nicotine
  • experience health problems or negative side effects
  • experience financial burdens from spending money on vaping supplies

 

Working through these types of exercises can be a great starting point in understanding your choices around vaping.


2: 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.


3: 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 your risk of experiencing adverse side effects.


4: Everyone has different limits

It’s important to know your limits when it comes to vaping, especially if you are new to using nicotine. Your tolerance may not be as high as those that vape or smoke more regularly, so start low and 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 National 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.


5: Avoid sharing

Sharing isn’t always caring. Sharing vapes can not only put you at a higher risk of spreading COVID-19, 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 with proper maintenance.


6: 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 should be disposed of in designated drop boxes. 

Drop boxes are available on campus at the University Memorial Center (UMC) on the first floor across from the Starbucks and at the West Boulder Recycling Center on 63rd Street. If you live outside of Boulder, you can use this hazardous waste facilities finder to search for disposal sites in your area. 


Support resources

If you’re looking to quit, there are resources to help:

  • Health Promotion provides free quit kits, nicotine cessation coaching and tips for overcoming cravings. Call 303-492-2937 to schedule an appointment.
     
  • The Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg offers nicotine patches and gum for sale over the counter.
     
  • Boulder Public Health offers a number of free support services to help adults and teens quit tobacco products, including vaping.
     
  • Whether you are thinking about quitting, are not yet ready to quit, or have already quit, Colorado QuitLine can help you with each step of the way.