What’s in a vape?
Most vapes (also called e-cigarettes) contain nicotine, and many also contain a wide range of flavourings and chemicals. Chemicals in vaping e-liquids can also react when heated and form new chemicals. There is still a lot we don’t know about how these chemicals could impact your health in the long term.
What are the health effects of vaping?
Vaping products share many of the same risks as tobacco products but also have their own distinct risks. From what is known so far, vaping can damage the respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Some people have also experienced acute (immediate) lung injuries from vaping.
Risks to Respiratory System
Vaping irritates the throat and leads to coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pains. Over time, it inflames your airway and increases your risk of developing chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and emphysema. It can also worsen existing asthma and COPD.
Some of the chemicals and by-products in vaping devices can build up in your lungs and cause long-term damage. The process of heating the e-liquid can produce additional chemicals that might be toxic when inhaled. These chemicals and their health effects are still under investigation.
Risks to Cardiovascular System
- Vaping raises your blood pressure and can increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Using a vaping product just once was shown to increase people's heart rates and cause their arteries to stiffen. Over time, vaping may cause damage to the lining of the arteries responsible for regulating inflammation and blood clotting.
- Vaping increases your risk of having a stroke, especially at a younger age.
- Vaping may also increase your blood sugar levels and lead to prediabetes, putting you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
General Health Risks
- Vaping may also contribute to poor oral health and increase your risk of cavities and gum disease.
- Vaping can also contribute to vision loss.
- Vaping may weaken bones and increase risk of fractures and bone breaks.
General health risks of nicotine
Nicotine is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, such as the nicotine patch or gum. However, there are risks linked to nicotine addiction. As well, exposure to nicotine from tobacco is known to contribute to increased heart rate and blood pressure and to cardiovascular disease, and it is suspected that nicotine exposure from vaping has similar long-term cardiovascular effects.
Vaping products contain nicotine in various concentrations, compared to more standardized amounts found in cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy. Some products contain much higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes. Vaping with nicotine can also lead to side effects like seizures or blackouts, due to inhaling too much nicotine in a short period of time. This is considered a form of nicotine poisoning.
Risks of nicotine for young people
Children and youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of nicotine. The human brain is still developing in adolescence and continues to develop past age 25. Using nicotine in adolescence disrupts cognitive function and can permanently alter the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and memory.
Nicotine use in adolescence also impacts mental health:
- Mood: increased risk of depression and/or anxiety; increased irritability
- Behaviour: reduced impulse control, difficulty concentrating
Young people can get addicted to nicotine more easily than adults. Nicotine use in adolescence may also increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs.
Risks of nicotine for pregnant women
Nicotine can be harmful to fetal development and can lead to adverse effects in brain or lung development and to low birth weight.
Bystanders can also be exposed to aerosol (vapour) that is exhaled by people vaping. This aerosol contains heavy metals and ultrafine particles that those nearby can inhale. So far, little is currently known about the possible health effects of secondhand exposure to e-cigarette aerosol. It may contribute to an increased risk of bronchitis symptoms (e.g., daily coughing or wheezing) and shortness breath, especially among young adults.
People who vape should be cautious not to vape around others, especially those who do not smoke or vape themselves.
There have been injuries due to vaping product malfunctions, including explosions and fires. Some of these devices are known as vape pens, mods, pod-mods, vape pods, disposables, or e-cigarettes.
For more information on product safety requirements, and how to protect yourself, read about vaping product, safety and regulation.
Dual Use: Smoking and Vaping
It’s common for people to use both regular cigarettes and vapes—this is called dual use. Using both cigarettes and vaping products at the same time can increase the negative health consequences compared to using either product alone. Research has found that vaping increases the risk of developing chronic pulmonary diseases including asthma and emphysema by 30%, and dual use triples this risk. Dual use also increases your risk of stroke compared to using only cigarettes or only e-cigarettes.
If you decide to try vaping to quit smoking (see FAQ below), ensure you switch completely to vaping in order to reduce your health risks.
What is Vaping?
Vaping products (aka e-cigarettes, vapes, juuls, mods) are electronic nicotine delivery devices that heat a liquid solution to produce a vapour. The aerosol is inhaled through a mouthpiece and is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Vaping products are available in many different forms. Some are designed to look like cigarettes, some are the size of a USB or pen, and others are much larger and may be modifiable. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and many also contain a wide range of flavourings and chemicals. Chemicals in vaping e-liquids can also react when heated and form new chemicals. There is still a lot we don’t know about how these chemicals could impact your health.
Will vaping help me quit smoking?
Vaping has not been proven to be an effective method to quit smoking, although it may work for some people. We recommend first trying proven quit methods, including:
- Behavioural coaching
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
- Prescription quit medications (varenicline and bupropion)
- Gradual reduction
If you are vaping to quit smoking, try combining it with behavioural counselling from QuitNow’s Quit Coaches.
How can I stay safe if I want to keep vaping?
Here are some tips to lower the risks associated with vaping:
- Switch completely from smoking to vaping, as dual use of both can increase health risks.
- Make a plan to quit vaping eventually, as long-term use of vaping may carry risks.
- Ensure you’re getting your vapes and pods from a reputable source. Don’t buy them from an informal source (e.g., off the street) and refrain from modifying the contents.
You can also lower your risks by reducing how much you vape:
- Buy pods with lower concentrations of nicotine. Lower nicotine concentration lowers the risk of nicotine addiction
- Reduce the number of times you vape per day/per week, to around 3-4 times per day or less than daily if possible.