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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 to turn the chemicals into vapour. The vapour is then turned into an aerosol that you inhale. This is called vaping. 

E-cigarettes include electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), mods, tanks, vape pens, vapes, and e-hookahs.

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). Others 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?

It’s hard to know what’s in e-cigarette liquid. E-cigarette labels don’t have to list all the ingredients. E-cigarette liquid often has:

  • glycerol
  • propylene glycol
  • added flavours that may not be safe to inhale

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. It affects how the brain develops in youth and young adults, who are more likely to get addicted to nicotine than adults.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

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

  • use harmful chemicals 
  • may have nicotine
  • have chemicals that add flavour and may not be safe to inhale (ingredients that are safe in food may not be safe to inhale.)
  • have chemicals that can change how the brain develops in people under age 25
  • shouldn’t be used if you’re young or pregnant

If you use vaping products, make sure to buy them from a legal source you can trust. Vaping products from illegal sources may have 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 areas where smoking is allowed.

It’s best not to use e-cigarettes indoors or in vehicles. This can put others in contact with second-hand vapour that also contains the chemicals from e-cigarettes. Second-hand vapour may be especially harmful to children and anyone who is pregnant.

Do e-cigarettes help people quit smoking?

Some research shows that using e-cigarettes can 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 switch from smoking to using e-cigarettes.
  • Switching from smoking to using e-cigarettes will lower your contact with some harmful chemicals.

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

What can you do to quit smoking or vaping?

Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking or using e-cigarettes, such as:

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

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

For support and information to help you quit smoking or using e-cigarettes:

Current as of: August 31, 2023

Author: Tobacco, Vaping and Cannabis Program, Alberta Health Services