Talking with teens about vaping: Tip sheet

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: 2019-03-14

Vaping is not harmless

  • Vaping can increase your exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction.
  • The long-term consequences of vaping are unknown.
  • It's rare, but defective batteries in vaping products have caused fires and explosions.

Risks of nicotine

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical. Youth are especially susceptible to its negative effects, as it is known to alter their brain development and can affect memory and concentration. It can also lead to addiction and physical dependence. Not all vaping products contain nicotine, but for those that do, the level of nicotine can vary widely. Some mixtures have very low levels, while others can contain more nicotine than in a typical cigarette. Even if a vaping product does not contain nicotine, there is still a risk of being exposed to other harmful chemicals.

Vaping nicotine can alter teen brain development.

Vaping versus smoking

For smokers, vaping is less harmful than smoking. However, it is not safe for youth to use any nicotine products, including cigarettes and vaping products.

Vaping liquids

The ingredients typically found in vaping liquids include glycerol, flavours, propylene glycol and varying levels of nicotine. The long-term safety of inhaling these substances in vaping products is unknown and continues to be assessed. There is no burning during vaping, instead, the liquid is heated. This process can cause reactions and create new chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Some contaminants, such as metals, might also get into the vaping products and then into the vapour.

Quick facts

  • Vaping is intended to help smokers quit tobacco. Vaping is not for youth and non-smokers.
  • Vaping is not harmless, yet Canadian teens are trying vaping products. Data from a recent Health Canada survey showed that 23% of students in grades 7-12 have tried an electronic cigarette.
  • In a 2018 study of vaping products prices analysis found that the majority of vaping liquid available in Canada contained nicotine.
  • There are characteristics that can make vaping products more difficult for you to recognize or detect: devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some resembling a USB flash drive; liquids can have high levels of nicotine and come in a variety of flavours; and vaping may not leave a lingering identifiable smell.
  • Vaping products have many names, such as: e-cigarettes, vape pens, vapes, mods, tanks, and e-hookahs. They may also be known by various brand names.

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