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Concerns associated with e-cigarettes

The use of e-cigarettes (JUULs, vaping pens, etc.) has quadrupled among incoming UW–Madison students since 2016.  Using an e-cigarette device as a substitute for cigarettes prevents the inhalation of smoke, but it does not prevent the inhalation of chemicals and potential harmful side effects.

Public Health Madison & Dane County issued a health alert on September 5, urging area residents to stop using vape or e-cigarette products immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations including warning people not to use vaping ingredients bought on the street and to stop modifying either nicotine or cannabis e-cigarette device in an effort to curb the vaping-related lung sicknesses that have alarmed health officials in more than two dozen states this summer.

The Food & Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes and they are not an approved method to quit smoking. Unregulated devices that deliver nicotine can contain substances that are toxic to the lungs or other bodily tissues. Although extensive research has not been performed on e-cigarettes, data already shows both long- and short-term negative effects from chemicals and heavy metals in e-cigarettes.

“We know that e-cigarette use in the college student population has dramatically increased,” says Dr. Bill Kinsey, University of Wisconsin–Madison’s chief health officer and medical director of University Health Services (UHS). “E-cigarettes pose a health risk to users. They emit a vapor that contains harmful chemicals and the effects on the health of the user, and those around them, are largely unknown.”

As of October 1, 1,299 lung injury cases in the U.S. associated with e-cigarettes or vaping have been reported to the CDC. Wisconsin residents have been hospitalized with severe lung damage from vaping.

In 2016, UW–Madison updated it’s campus smoke-free policy to include e-cigarettes.

The use of any vapor producing item is not permitted. This includes but is not limited to E-cigarettes, hookahs, and other vapor producing products. When smoking outside, you must remain at least 25 feet from the residence hall.”

“By reducing, and eventually eliminating, the use of cigarettes, tobacco, and other nicotine-containing products on campus, we continue our efforts to provide a safe and healthy environment for students and employees,” says Kinsey.

Anyone who has used vaping products and is experiencing unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss should talk to a healthcare provider.

UHS offers free individual counseling for students who are interested in strategies for quitting smoking or e-cigarettes. Providers will work with students on behavioral strategies and/or prescription smoking cessation medications. Call 608-265-5600 or log in to MyUHS to schedule an appointment with a behavioral health provider. The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line is available at 800-QUIT-NOW or

“This is a rising trend among incoming students and we want to work with all students to help them make healthy choices,” says Kinsey.