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Quitting Smoking

Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Products

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that have a chamber filled with chemicals. They use heat from the battery to turn the chemicals into a vapour. The vapour is then turned into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user and called vaping. E-cigarettes include electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), mods, vape pens, vapes, e-hookahs, and JUUL (a brand of e-cigarette).

Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Newer types of e-cigarettes even look like pens, phones, car fobs, and USB flash drives.

Some e-cigarettes are disposable (only used once). Other types of e-cigarettes are reusable (can be used more than once). The chamber (called a cartridge or pod) of reusable e-cigarettes can be replaced or refilled with a liquid that has chemicals. This liquid is often called e-liquid or e-juice./

What’s in e-cigarette liquid?

At this time, it’s hard to know what’s in e-cigarette liquid. This is because an e-cigarette label doesn’t have to list all the ingredients. E-cigarette liquid often has:

  • glycerol
  • propylene glycol
  • added flavours

It’s important to remember that when a chemical or other ingredient is safe for food, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe to inhale into the lungs. For example, Health Canada makes sure that flavours added to food are safe. But we don’t know if these same flavours are safe for use in e-cigarettes. Some research shows that added flavours used in e-cigarette liquid can cause lung problems.

Do e-cigarettes and vaping products have nicotine?

E-cigarette liquid may have nicotine, even if the product says it’s nicotine-free. All nicotine salt cartridges (pods) have nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive drug.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

More research is needed before we know if e-cigarettes are safe to use. We also don’t know what the long-term health effects are. We do know that e-cigarettes:

  • use harmful chemicals that are inhaled by the user and may also be inhaled by those nearby
  • may have nicotine, even if the packaging doesn’t say it does
    • Nicotine is addictive and affects how the brain develops in youth and young adults.
    • Youth and young adults are more likely to get addicted to nicotine compared to older adults.
  • have propylene glycol and other chemicals that add flavor that may not be safe to vapourize and inhale as an aerosol into the lungs
  • have chemicals in the e-cigarette liquid that can change how the brain develops during pregnancy, childhood, and the teenage years
  • can put you in contact with harmful metals and chemicals when the e-cigarette liquid is heated
  • shouldn’t be used if you’re young, pregnant, or don’t smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products

If you use vaping products like e-cigarettes, make sure to buy them from a legal source that you can trust. If you buy vaping products from somewhere illegal, there may be more risks to your health and safety.

Read the instructions on how to use a vaping product before you use it. Don’t change the vaping product or use it with anything that you’re not supposed to use it with. If a product isn’t for vaping, don’t vape it.

Can e-cigarettes be used anywhere, anytime?

Most places treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco cigarettes. This means they can only be used in specific areas where smoking is allowed.

It’s best not to use e-cigarettes indoors or in vehicles. This can put others in contact with the harmful vapour from e-cigarettes (called second-hand vapour). The chemicals in second-hand vapour can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women.

Do e-cigarettes help people quit smoking?

Some early research shows that using e-cigarettes may help some people quit smoking. But we still don’t know how helpful they are and more research is needed.

We do know:

  • the health risks are lower when you completely switch from smoking cigarettes to using e-cigarettes
  • switching from smoking to e-cigarettes will lower the amount of harmful chemicals that you have contact with

If you use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, it’s best to have a plan to quit using them at some point too.

What can you do to quit smoking or vaping?

Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit smoking or using e-cigarettes.

This may include:

  • counselling
  • over-the-counter products approved by Health Canada, like nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or an inhaler
  • prescription medicines

Over-the-counter products and prescription medicines to help you stop smoking are safe. Research has shown they can help people stop smoking and using tobacco products, or use them less.

You can also get support and information from Alberta Health Services if you’d like to quit smoking or using e-cigarettes.

Current as of: January 20, 2020

Author: Tobacco Reduction Program, Alberta Health Services