Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It seems like only yesterday when vaping devices landed on the smokers’ scene with fashionable, yummy, and “safer” alternatives to tobacco cigarettes.  Of course, the business and marketing model that benefitted electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) makers like JUUL eventually came back to haunt them.

Manufacturers began to bear the blame for a dramatic uptick in nicotine addictions, especially among youth, often causing consumers to suffer seizures, strokes, convulsions, and other outcomes of nicotine poisoning. Naturally, lawsuits followed—from users, as well as governmental agencies.

Now, JUUL users face another harsh reality about their favorite nicotine-related pastime, and it’s all about metal.

New research shows that the liquids and vapors from e-cigarettes contain dangerously high levels of metals and metalloids. A study published in the March 18, 2020 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives summarized evidence gathered on metal levels in e-cigarette liquids, as well as biosamples from e-cigarette users. The researchers’ objective in this study was to analyze exposures to these metallic substances, along with their possible health implications.

The group reviewed 24 studies on the existence of metals and metalloids in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols, as well as human biosamples. The metals discovered in these devices included aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and several others. Previous research has surmised that many of these metals find their way into e-cigarette liquids and vapors through the heating of the metal coils in the vaping devices. The heating process releases the nicotine as vapor and is, therefore, an essential part of the vaping experience.

The 2020 study further showed that metallic particles also were found in users’ blood, saliva, urine, and serum—and in quantities greater than what is found in users of conventional cigarettes. Not only does such exposure to metal boost a person’s risk of cancer, but also it can cause direct damage to lung tissue.

So the popular debate du jour rages on: Is there any truth in advertising that vaping offers a safer nicotine-consumption alternative to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes? Each side of the debate will present its evidence that either supports or contradicts the statement.

The question—and the health and safety of our youth—demands that more research be done. Until then, maybe it suffices to say that vaping is not risk-free—and should never have been pushed as the next fashion fad in a cheap shot to attract a young and impressionable market.


  1. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP5686
  2. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP3451
  3. https://cen.acs.org/safety/consumer-safety/Vaping-exposes-users-toxic-metals/98/i12
Sara Stephens is a freelance writer who has developed a hefty portfolio of work across several industries, with a strong emphasis on law, technology, and marketing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, as well as various technology and consumer publications, both print and online. Sara also works as a freelance book editor, having developed and edited manuscripts for bestselling and novice authors alike, and as a verbal strategist for a Miami branding consultancy.