Developmental Effects of Electronic Cigarette Use

Joseph M. Collaco, Sharon A. McGrath-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electronic cigarettes have gained widespread acceptance among adolescents and young adults. As a result of this popularity, there are concerns regarding the potential harm of primary, secondhand and thirdhand electronic cigarette exposures on fetal and postnatal development. In vitro studies have shown that constituents in electronic cigarette liquids, including nicotine, flavorings, and carrier agents can alter cellular processes and growth. Additionally, aerosolized electronic cigarette emissions have been shown to disrupt organ development and immune responses in preclinical studies. In clinical studies, an association between electronic cigarette use and frequent respiratory symptoms, greater asthma severity and impaired mucociliary clearance has been demonstrated with adolescent and young adult users of electronic cigarettes having twice the frequency of cough, mucus production, or bronchitis compared to nonusers. Along with the popularity of electronic cigarette use, secondhand electronic cigarette exposure has increased substantially; with almost one-fourth of middle and high school children reporting exposure to secondhand vapors. The health consequences of secondhand electronic cigarette exposure on children and other vulnerable populations are poorly understood but detectable levels of cotinine have been measured in nonusers. Pregnant women and their offspring are another vulnerable group at increased risk for health consequences from electronic cigarette exposure. Nicotine crosses the placenta and can disrupt brain and lung development in preclinical studies. This article will focus on the physiological and health effects associated with primary or secondhand exposure to electronic cigarettes. It is expected that with ongoing availability of electronic cigarettes as well as the accumulation of additional follow-up time for long-term outcomes, the risks associated with exposure will become better clarified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3337-3346
Number of pages10
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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