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Smoking and Vaping

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E-cigarettes and vaping

What are e-cigarettes and vapes?

Electronic cigarettes are commonly called e-cigs or vapes. These devices work by heating a mix that contains propylene glycol, other chemicals and flavouring to make them taste good. Called e-liquids, many of these liquids contain nicotine. When the e-liquid is heated it becomes an aerosol vapour that you inhale or vape.

The health risks of vaping are not yet known because these vaping devices have not been on the market long enough to be studied for both short- and long-term health effects. The health risks of inhaling someone’s secondhand vapour are also still being studied.

Nicotine makes them addictive

Many major commercial tobacco companies now own e-cigarette companies and are developing other nicotine products to maintain their customer base as people successfully quit smoking cigarettes and younger people choose not to start smoking regular cigarettes. While they may be less harmful to a person who is already smoking regularly and can't or won't quit, they are not harmless. If you don't smoke, don't vape. Youth are especially at risk if they start to use e-cigarettes because the nicotine can affect the developing brain. Here's what you need to know about e-cigarettes and youth

Not proven to help quitting

E-cigs/vapes have not been proven as an effective way to quit smoking and cannot by law be advertised as a quit smoking product. There have some studies showing they help you to quit and others saying you often end up becoming a dual user of cigarettes and vapes. If you want to quit smoking, the health unit recommends you use scientifically proven products like nicotine replacement therapies available over the counter (patches, sprays, lozenges as an example), or ask your healthcare provider about prescription medications like Champix or Zyban that also have been proven to help you quit successfully.

Attractive to youth

Many youth and young adults who have never smoked cigarettes are trying vapes. There is a real concern that many of these non-smokers will become addicted to the nicotine found in e-cigarettes. A 2017 public opinion research survey conducted on behalf of Health Canada found that the most common reason for young people (15-24 years) trying their first vaping product include:

  • curiosity
  • appealing smell
  • social bonding activity
  • convenience (perceived ability to use indoors)

A study led by Professor David Hammond of the University of Waterloo found that between 2017 and 2018 Canada saw a 74% increase in vaping among youth aged 16-19, jumping to 14.6% from 8.4%. The study also found that cigarette smoking among 16-19 year-olds in the same period increasing by 45% to 15.5% from 10.7%.

As a parent or caregiver you may not be aware your children are using vaping products because the size and shapes of the vaping device - some as small as a computer memory stick - let a person vape without being noticed.

Provincial law bans the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 and federal laws ban advertising that promotes vaping as a part of a popular lifestyle, as well as youth-friendly e-liquid flavours like candy. 

The safety of the actual devices is a concern. There are few quality control and manufacturing standards and there have been news reports of the devices catching fire and exploding. Safety concerns have led them to be banned from checked luggage on airlines.

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