What is Vaping?
Vaping products (aka e-cigarettes) 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.
Vaping products create an aerosol by heating an e-liquid that usually contains flavourings, nicotine, and a variety of chemicals. The aerosol is inhaled through a mouthpiece and is then absorbed into your bloodstream. There is still a lot we do not know about how these chemicals could impact your health.
Vaping products are legal for sale in B.C. for those 19 years of age and over. However, these products may cause health risks and have not been fully evaluated for safety or quality by Health Canada.
What Are the Health Risks of Vaping?
The e-liquid in vaping products, which is vapourized and then inhaled, contains a variety of chemicals. The long-term risks of inhaling these chemicals are still being studied but research is starting to show negative effects on both lung and heart health, as well as damage to your immune system. Some people have also experienced acute (immediate) lung injuries from vaping.
Risks to lung health
New research has found that vaping increases the risk of developing chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. This risk is even higher for those who use both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes.
There are also health risks linked to the chemicals found in vaping products. E-cigarettes contain some chemicals both suspected and known to cause cancer as well as particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause cardiovascular damage. The process of heating the e-liquid can produce additional chemicals with unknown health effects.
There have been 20 reported cases of severe vaping-related lung illness in Canada and over 2400 in the US, linked to exposure to certain chemicals in vaping e-liquids.
- In Canada, there has been one case of "popcorn lung disease", linked to a chemical called diacetyl found in some flavoured e-liquids. This disease is a form of chemical burn in the lungs
- Vitamin E acetate has been identified as a chemical of concern in the US outbreak of vaping-related illness
- In the US, there was a case of cobalt lung disease, caused by inhaling an e-liquid that contained heavy metal particles which then settle into the lungs
Risks to heart health
- Recent research has shown that people who use vaping products may be at a higher risk of heart disease.
- Using a vaping product just once was shown to increase people's heart rates and cause their arteries to stiffen, and may cause damage to the lining of the arteries responsible for regulating inflammation and blood clotting. All of these conditions can lead to heart disease.
General health risks of nicotine
Nicotine is not known to cause cancer. It is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, such as the patch or nicotine gum. However, there are risks linked to nicotine and it is a highly addictive substance. As well, exposure to nicotine from smoking 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. The effects of these concentrations and inhaling nicotine aerosol are still being studied.
- 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. The majority of incidences have been among youth so far, according to report from the US.
Risks of nicotine for children and youth
Young people are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine, such as addiction, and to the effects of other chemicals found in vaping products. Vaping products can contain flavourings such as fruit or candy -based flavours, which are popular among children and youth and contain harmful chemicals. Nicotine is known to alter brain development and can affect memory and concentration in young people. Vaping can cause addiction to nicotine more easily in young people. It can also cause young people to start using tobacco and 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 that is exhaled when someone vapes, and the effects of this exposure are not yet known. While the risks of aerosol are expected to be much lower than tobacco smoke, Health Canada recommends that people using e-cigarettes be cautious around non-users and children.
There have been injuries due to vaping product malfunctions, including explosions and fires. For more information on product safety requirements, and how to protect yourself, read about vaping product, safety and regulation.
Will vaping help me quit smoking?
While some people have found success using vaping to quit smoking, vaping is not a proven quit method and it carries distinct risks that aren’t fully understood. There are many safe and effective methods that have been proven to help you quit smoking.
QuitNow offers personalized coaching to help you quit or reduce vaping, by phone or live chat, free of charge.
How can I stay safe if I want to keep vaping?
The only way to fully protect yourself from the risks of vaping is to avoid all vaping products. However, if you do intend to keep using e-cigarettes or other vaping products, ensure you are getting them from a reputable source. Do not buy them from informal sources (e.g. off the street) and refrain from modifying the contents.
Where can I get help to quit or reduce vaping?
QuitNow’s Quit Coaches can help you make a plan to quit or reduce vaping use, via phone or live chat 24/7.