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Vaping - what you need to know

What is vaping?

Vaping products (electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes) are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled (breathed in) into the lungs. These devices are commonly called vapes, mods, e-hookahs, sub-ohms, tank systems and vape pens. They may all look a bit different, but work in similar ways.

The liquid (sometimes referred to as e-juice) in a vape product contains a combination of ingredients, usually including nicotine (the highly addictive drug found in tobacco products), propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and flavouring. Many of these substances are considered safe for ingestion (eating); however, when these liquids are heated they create new chemicals that may not be safe to inhale. For example, the heating process can create chemicals like formaldehyde and other contaminants such as nickel, tin and aluminum.

We recommend the following for Canadians considering the use of vaping products:

  • Learn the facts: Vaping has significant health risks and understanding the potential short and long-term health outcomes before vaping is recommended. There is accumulating evidence that e-cigarettes cause serious lung disease
  • Non-smokers, pregnant women and people who have quit smoking should not vape.
  • Younger people should be educated to understand their increased risk of nicotine addiction compared with the general population and should be strongly encouraged not to vape
  • If you are vaping:
    • monitor for symptoms affecting your lung health and let your healthcare provider know you vape. If you smoke and are using vaping to quit, know that there is not significant evidence to suggest vaping as an effective cessation support. Our recommendation is: do not vape
  • talk to a health professional about clinically proven options for quitting. 


Flavours and youth

There are more than 7,000 flavours of e-juice available to lure young Canadians and kids. These range from cotton candy to chocolate or mango. Young people are drawn to flavours more than any other group. In fact, more than 83 per cent of young e-cigarette users (15-19 years of age) report using fruit and candy/dessert flavoured vapes. Dressing up a nicotine-based product with candy and dessert flavoured names hides the product’s harm and increases its appeal. There is more to flavoured e-juices than hides behind the vapour.

Aside from addicting a new generation of Canadians to nicotine, there are a lot of unknown health risks.

While the chemicals used in flavoured e-juices have been tested as safe for eating, they have not been tested for inhalation. When heated, the liquids create chemicals that could cause long-term harm to the lungs. The heating process can create chemicals like formaldehyde and other contaminants such as nickel, tin and aluminum.

Flavours were banned in tobacco because of their clear marketing toward young people and the vaping should not be treated any differently. Eliminating inviting flavours from vaping products is essential to protecting kids’ lungs.


What are the health effects of vaping?

Any time we breathe in anything, other than medication or fresh air into our lungs, there is a potential to cause harm. Vaping is no different. We are still collecting more research to fully understand the long-term health effects to inform Canadians. But at this point, we do already know that there is harm connected to vaping.

  • Nicotine dependence: vaping products contain large amounts of nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. For instance, 1 Juul Pod (Juul is one brand name of a vaping product) has the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes (approximately one pack). This means people may develop dependence quickly and it may even increase your chances of smoking traditional cigarettes.
  • Negative lung health effects of tobacco use include worsening of existing lung conditions, lung cancer and COPD among others.
  • Short-term symptoms: Individuals should watch for signs of cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. These may be signs of lung damage. If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention.
  • Lung disease: Vaping can make asthma and other existing lung diseases worse. Breathing in the harmful chemicals from vaping products can cause irreversible (cannot be cured) lung damage, lung disease and, in some cases, death. Some chemicals in vaping products can also cause cardiovascular disease and biological changes that are associated with cancer development.