Vaping

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) became law on May 23, 2018. Adults can now legally get vaping products with nicotine as a less harmful option than smoking.

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If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to improve your health. There is support available to help you quit.

Completely replacing cigarette smoking with a vaping product will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.Footnote 1

If you are not a smoker, vaping can increase your exposure to some harmful substances that could negatively affect your health.

About vaping

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling a vapour produced by a vaping product, such as an electronic cigarette. This vapour is often flavoured and can contain nicotine.

Vaping products consist of:

  • consumables (such as liquid solutions)
  • vaping devices (including any parts used with those devices)

Vaping products have many names, such as:

  • mods
  • vapes
  • e-cigs
  • sub-ohms
  • vape pens
  • e-hookahs
  • tank systems
  • electronic cigarettes
  • electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)

Vaping devices

Most vaping devices consist of a:

  • battery
  • mouthpiece
  • heating element
  • chamber (a tank or reservoir to contain a liquid solution)

Most devices use electrical power from a battery to heat a liquid solution, which becomes vaporized. The vapour then condenses into an aerosol, which is inhaled by the user through the mouthpiece.

Vaping devices are now available in many shapes and sizes. Some are small and look like USB drives or pens, while others are much larger.

Some products are "open," meaning they can be refilled, while others are "closed." If a product is closed, either the whole product, or the part that holds the vaping substances, can't be refilled.

Vaping liquids and substances

Most vaping substances are flavoured and can contain nicotine. Most vaping substances on the market today are liquids, but some are offered as wax, salts or herbs.

In vaping liquids, the nicotine and/or the flavouring compounds are suspended in a liquid mixture. This mixture is typically propylene glycol and/or glycerol (vegetable glycerin).

In the vaping substances that contain nicotine, the level of nicotine can vary widely. Some mixtures have very low levels of nicotine, while others can contain more nicotine than in a typical tobacco cigarette.

Flavouring compounds consist of chemicals and blends of chemicals to simulate different flavours.

Contents of vaping vapour

Vaping products produce a vapour that contains many chemicals. The ingredients typically found in vaping liquids are also found in the vapour. These include:

  • glycerol
  • flavours
  • propylene glycol
  • nicotine (possibly)

Vaping doesn't require burning, unlike cigarette smoking, but the vaping process requires the vaping substance to be heated.

If you are a smoker: vaping vs smoking

Vaping is less harmful than smoking. Many of the toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco and the tobacco smoke form when tobacco is burned.Footnote 2 Footnote 3 Footnote 4

Vaping products do not contain tobacco and do not involve burning or produce smoke. Except for nicotine, vaping products typically only contain a fraction of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco or tobacco smoke, and at lower levels.

Switching from tobacco cigarettes to vaping products will reduce a person's exposure to many toxic and cancer-causing chemicals.Footnote 5

As a step towards quitting cigarettes, many smokers may go through a transition period when they use both cigarettes and vaping products. Studies have shown short-term general health improvements in those who have completely switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping products.Footnote 6

Vaping as a quit-smoking aid

Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it is possible. Vaping products and e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a less harmful way than smoking, and may reduce health risks for smokers who are unwilling or unable to:

  • quit on their own or
  • quit using approved nicotine replacement therapies (such as gums, lozenges and patches) or medication
  • quit using counselling

While evidence is still emerging, some evidence suggests that e-cigarette use is linked to improved rates of success when quitting.

Support and tools for quitting smoking

Talk to your doctor for support and advice towards a smoke-free life.

You can also find additional help to quit smoking by:

Risks of vaping

If you are not a smoker, vaping can increase your exposure to some harmful chemicals, that could negatively affect your health. Vaping could also expose you to nicotine which is addictive.

There are also concerns about the appeal of vaping products among youth and their potential to promote tobacco use.

If you are a smoker, vaping is a less harmful option than smoking.

The amount of substances (including nicotine) a person can be exposed to by vaping is affected by the:

  • battery power
  • type of vaping liquid and amount of nicotine
  • type of vaping device
  • settings on the device
  • combination of internal components

Health risks of vaping with nicotine

Nicotine is not known to cause cancer. It is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, such as the patch or nicotine gum. However, there are risks linked to nicotine.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Vaping product use could result in symptoms of dependence.Footnote 7

Children and youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine, including addiction. Nicotine is known to alter brain development and can affect memory and concentration. It may also predispose youth to addiction to nicotine and possibly other drugs.Footnote 8 Footnote 9

In some cases, vaping liquid containers have enough nicotine to be poisonous to young children.

Children must be prevented from getting vaping liquid and vaping product safety is regulated by Health Canada.

Health risks of other chemicals in vaping

There are health risks linked to other chemicals found in vaping products.

The main liquids in vaping products (vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol) are considered safe for use in many consumer products (cosmetics and sweeteners). The long-term safety of inhaling these substances in vaping products is unknown and continues to be assessed.

There is no burning during vaping, unlike during smoking, but the vaping process requires the liquid to be heated. This process can cause reactions and create new chemicals (such as aldehydes). Some contaminants (such as metals) might also get into the vaping products and then into the vapour.

The types and levels of these chemicals and contaminants can vary based on the type of device and the way the device is used. It has been shown that using vaping products with higher power and temperature settings can produce more chemicals.Footnote 10 Footnote 11 Footnote 12 Footnote 13 Some of these chemicals and contaminants are linked to negative health effects. However, they are normally at low levels in vapour, and much lower than in cigarette smoke. To date, the level of metals found in vaping product vapours isn't considered cause for significant safety concerns.Footnote 14

Second-hand vapour

Bystanders can also be exposed to vapour that is exhaled by users. The health effects to non-users from exposure to second-hand vapour are still unknown. However, given the low levels of chemicals in vapour compared to tobacco smoke, risks are also expected to be much lower.

So, as a precaution, Health Canada recommends that users be cautious around non-users and youth.

There is only limited evidence that e-cigarette use increases the level of nicotine and other chemicals on indoor surfaces.Footnote 15

Device malfunctions

Injuries from vaping product malfunctions, including explosions and fires, have occurred. For more information on product safety requirements, and how to protect yourself, read about vaping product safety and regulation.

Vaping in Canada: what we know

We use a variety of tools to:

  • assess the size of the vaping product market
  • understand how Canadians are using these products
  • keep on top of the latest science and research on vaping

Surveys

A number of surveys have been done on the subject of vaping in Canada.

The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey

This is a general population survey of tobacco, vaping, alcohol and drug use among Canadians aged 15 years and older. It was done by Statistics Canada on behalf of Health Canada. The most recent survey, done in 2015, showed that:

  • 13% of Canadians have tried a vaping product (referred to as an e-cigarette in the survey). Youth (15-19 years-old) and young adults (20-24 years-old) have the highest rates of trying vaping, compared to adults aged 25 and older.
  • among Canadians who have used a vaping product (such as e-cigarettes) in the past 30 days, most are current smokers (63%), followed by former smokers (24%). Thirteen percent reported having never smoked cigarettes.
  • 50% of current or former cigarette smokers who had ever used vaping products (such as e-cigarettes) reported using it as a quit-smoking aid
    • This survey did not include questions about the rate of success of attempts to quit smoking using vaping products.
The Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey

Canadian students between grades 7 and 12 (Secondary I to secondary V in Quebec) were surveyed on their use of:

  • drugs
  • vaping
  • alcohol
  • tobacco

The survey is done every 2 years. The most recent survey was done in 2016-17 and showed that:

  • 23% of students in grades 7-12 had ever tried a vaping product (referred to as an e-cigarette in the survey). Ten percent reported using them within the last 30 days.
  • most students who had tried a vaping product (such as e-cigarettes) had also tried a cigarette.
  • 53% of all students thought it would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get a vaping product (such as e-cigarettes) if they wanted one.

Retailer behavior data

Rules for the sale of e-cigarettes are now in place (under the TVPA). New e-cigarette products and options are being introduced to the market.

Health Canada uses research studies to:

Public opinion research

Along with large surveys and other data-gathering methods, we also seek to assess Canadians' understanding and opinions on vaping products. We do so through public opinion research (POR). The most recent information from POR on vaping products from 2017 found that:

  • the most common reasons for people trying their first vaping product include:
    • curiosity
    • appealing smell
    • social bonding activity
    • convenience (perceived ability to use indoors)
  • many vapers only use vaping products in the company of others and prefer sweet or fruit-like flavours
  • most users and non-users have trouble seeing the risks or benefits of vaping products

Scientific advisory board

Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have established an external Scientific Advisory Board on Vaping Products. This advisory board will review the science on vaping products and provide evidence and advice on a regular basis.

The board includes:

  • scientists
  • academics
  • researchers
  • health professionals

The members have expertise in a range of disciplines, including:

  • clinical medicine
  • population and public health
  • basic and biomedical science

Vaping product safety and regulation

Vaping products produced, advertised, imported or sold in Canada are subject to the:

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act

The TVPA replaces the Tobacco Act, which governed how tobacco products were:

  • sold
  • labelled
  • produced
  • promoted

While continuing to govern tobacco products, the new TVPA creates a legal framework for governing vaping products. In doing so, it balances multiple goals, including:

  • protecting youth from nicotine addiction and incentive to use tobacco and vaping products
  • allowing adults (mainly adults who smoke) to access vaping products as a less harmful option than smoking

Key elements of the TVPA related to vaping include:

  • not allowing vaping products to be sold or given to anyone under 18 years of age
  • giving us the power to develop rules relating to such things as:
    • industry reporting
    • manufacturing standards
    • product and packaging labelling (for example, health warning messages)
  • setting promotion restrictions for vaping products, including promoting flavours that appeal to youth and promotions that could mislead consumers about the health effects of these products
  • banning the use of certain ingredients and not allowing the sale of vaping products that have an appearance or functions that may appeal to youth

For more information about the TVPA, please contact the Tobacco Control Directorate by email at hc.tcp.questions-plt.sc@canada.ca. Please also visit our consultation summary on proposals to regulate vaping products.

The Food and Drugs Act

The FDA and its regulations continue to apply to any vaping product that makes a health claim (for example, those that are intended to help quit smoking), including those that contain nicotine or any other drugs as defined by the FDA.  These products must receive an authorization from Health Canada before they can be:

  • commercially imported;
  • advertised; or
  • sold in Canada. 

Before Health Canada issues a market authorization, it conducts a careful review of evidence provided by the product sponsor to confirm that the product meets the requirements for safety, efficacy and quality established by the FDA and its regulations.  In addition, product sponsors must obtain a valid establishment or site license from Health Canada before commercially importing, manufacturing, packaging or labelling a vaping health product in Canada. To learn more, please consult Notice: Implications of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act for the Health Products Regulated Under the Food and Drugs Act.

For more information regarding the review process and regulation of prescription health products under the Food and Drug Regulations, contact Health Canada’s Therapeutic Products Directorate at hc.policy.bureau.enquiries.sc@canada.ca.

For more information regarding the authorization non-prescription drugs as per the FDR as well as product and site licences for natural health products as per the Natural Health Product Regulations, contact the Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate at hc.nnhpd-dpsnso.sc@canada.ca

The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act

All vaping products that don't make health claims are now governed by the CCPSA. The CCPSA allows Health Canada to carry out inspections and order recalls or other measures. The Act also prohibits the manufacture, import, advertisement or sale of any consumer product that is a "danger to human health or safety". Industry members supplying consumer products in Canada must comply with all applicable requirements of the CCPSA and its regulations.

The CCPSA and its regulations also:

  • regulates toxic ingredients, including requiring warning labels and child-resistant packaging
  • requires industry to report health or safety incidents, and to maintain records related to their products and
  • authorizes Health Canada to order product recalls

The Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001

Vaping liquids are also subject to the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations, 2001 (CCCR, 2001) which include provisions for labelling and child resistant containers. Health Canada intends to propose rules for vaping products in the future.

For information about the CCPSA, please email hc.tcp.questions-plt.sc@canada.ca. You may also report a product or consult the Guidance on Vaping Products not Marketed for a Therapeutic Use.

The Non-smoker's Health Act

The Non-smokers' Health Act (NSHA) addresses the issue of second-hand smoke and vapor. This Act applies to federally regulated workplaces, such as:

  • banks
  • ferries
  • commercial aircraft
  • federal government offices

For more information about the NSHA, please contact the Labour Program at Employment and Social Development Canada.

Other laws regulating vaping

Provincial, territorial, and municipal laws also regulate vaping products and their use. For more information on how your province, territory or municipality regulates vaping products, you may wish to contact your local:

  • health department
  • provincial, territorial and municipal government

Information for the vaping industry

For information on your consumer product requirements, please consult these links:

For more information

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nap.edu

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

A Review of Human Carcinogens. Part E: Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions. IARC monograph volume 100E. Lyon (France): International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2012.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease--The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General; Atlanta (GA). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

The health consequences of smoking--50 years of progress: A report of the Surgeon General; Atlanta, GA. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nationalacademies.org/eCigHealthEffects

Return to footnote 5 referrer

Footnote 6

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nationalacademies.org/eCigHealthEffects

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nationalacademies.org/eCigHealthEffects

Return to footnote 7 referrer

Footnote 8

E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults; A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.

Return to footnote 8 referrer

Footnote 9

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nationalacademies.org/eCigHealthEffects

Return to footnote 9 referrer

Footnote 10

Geiss, O., Bianchi, I. and Barrero-Moreno, J. 2016. Correlation of volatile carbonyl yields emitted by e-cigarettes with the temperature of the heating coil and the perceived sensorial quality of the generated vapours. Int J Hyg Environ Health, 219, 268-277.

Return to footnote 10 referrer

Footnote 11

Gillman, I.G., Kistler, K.A., Stewart, E.W. and Paolantonio, A.R. 2015. Effect of variable power levels on the yield of total aerosol mass and formation of aldehydes in e-cigarette aerosols. Reg Toxicol Pharmacol, 75, 58-65.

Return to footnote 11 referrer

Footnote 12

Kosmider, L., Sobczak, A., Fik, M., Knysak, J., Zaciera, M., Kurek, J. and Goniewicz, M.L. 2014. Carbonyl compounds in electronic cigarette vapors: effects of nicotine solvent and battery output voltage. Nicotine Tob Res, 16, 1319-1326.

Return to footnote 12 referrer

Footnote 13

Talih, S., Balhas, Z., Salman, R., Karaoghlanian, N. and Shihadeh, A. 2016. "Direct Dripping": A High-Temperature, High-Formaldehyde Emission Electronic Cigarette Use Method. Nicotine Tob Res, 18, 453-459.

Return to footnote 13 referrer

Footnote 14

McNeill A, Brose LS, Calder R, Bauld L & Robson D (2018). Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England.

Return to footnote 14 referrer

Footnote 15

Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes. A Consensus Study Report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.; 2018. www.nationalacademies.org/eCigHealthEffects

Return to footnote 15 referrer

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