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Learning About Electronic Cigarettes

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into a vapour that you inhale. Many of them are made to look like real cigarettes. Some have a light at the end that glows when you inhale.

These cigarettes are often called e-cigarettes. Using an e-cigarette is also called vaping.

Some people use e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking. E-cigarettes may help satisfy nicotine cravings for adults.

How do e-cigarettes work?

E-cigarettes have three main parts:

  • The mouthpiece. It has a cartridge that holds liquid nicotine. Some also contain a flavour.
  • A heating element. It turns the liquid into a vapour when you breathe in.
  • A battery. It provides power to the heating element.

A chemical in the vapour turns it white. This makes it look like smoke.

Electronic cigars and pipes are also available.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

More research is needed before we know if e-cigarettes are safe for people to use. The long-term health effects of using them are not known.

Just as with leaf tobacco cigarettes, the nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive. And they do contain small amounts of harmful chemicals. It is not yet known how much of these chemicals and nicotine is inhaled with e-cigarettes.

Keep in mind that Health Canada does not regulate the manufacturing or production of e-cigarettes. So there is no government control or rules for how much or what chemicals are in the cartridge. This means that the list of contents printed on the cartridge may not be correct. E-cigarette use by teens and young adults is increasing. Any product that contains nicotine is especially unsafe for this age group.

Be sure to keep e-cigarettes out of the reach of children. The nicotine is poisonous. It can be lethal if swallowed.

Can e-cigarettes help you stop smoking?

If you are thinking about using e-cigarettes to help you quit smoking, talk to your doctor first.

It is not known if e-cigarettes will help you stop smoking.

E-cigarette cartridges come with different levels of nicotine. Some people try to lower the nicotine levels over time. But it is not known if this is a healthy or effective way to control nicotine amounts. Using e-cigarettes may keep your addiction to nicotine active. This could make it harder to quit. And there is some concern that the use of these by new users could lead to use of other tobacco products, such as leaf tobacco cigarettes.

Health Canada has not approved e-cigarettes for any use, including helping people to quit smoking.

Where can you learn more?

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