About vaping

Vaping products, "vapes" or "e-cigarettes", comprise a wide range of products that heat a substance to produce an aerosol that is inhaled. Learn about the devices, how they work, and what they contain.

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Vaping 101

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product, such as an electronic cigarette. Vaping doesn't require burning like cigarette smoking. The device heats a liquid into an aerosol (sometimes known as "vapour" and mistakenly called "water vapour").

The term "vaping" is also used to refer to the inhalation of cannabis aerosols, which are produced by products that differ from nicotine products described on this page.

Learn about cannabis (marijuana), its uses and forms.

Vaping devices are usually battery-powered. They may come with removable parts. Vaping products have many names, including:

  • mods
  • pod-mods
  • vape pods
  • vapes
  • disposables
  • sub-ohms
  • vape pens
  • e-hookahs
  • tank systems
  • electronic cigarettes / e-cigarettes
  • electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)
  • electronic vaping device
  • nicotine vaping products (NVP)

They may also be known by various brand names.

Vaping devices

Most vaping devices consist of a:

  • battery
  • mouthpiece
  • atomizer (heating element or coil and wick)
  • chamber, such as a tank or reservoir to contain a liquid solution
  • some may have a disposable cartridge (a liquid reservoir and heating element combined into a single unit, known as a pod)

Most vaping devices use electrical power from a battery to heat a liquid solution. The heat causes the solution to turn into an aerosol. The aerosol is inhaled by the user through the mouthpiece.

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

There are two kinds of vaping devices:

  • Open
    • The device is manually filled by adding vaping liquid into a tank or a pod, which is usually on the top of the device.
  • Closed
    • The device holds a disposable cartridge or pod that is pre-filled with vaping liquid, which is disposed of after it runs out; or,
    • A single-use, disposable device that comes ready to use and is disposed of after it runs out of vaping liquid or charge.

Vaping liquids and substances

Vaping liquids have many names, including:

  • e-liquid
  • nic juice
  • e-juice
  • vape juice
  • pod juice

Most vaping substances available for sale:

  • are flavoured
  • contain nicotine
  • are liquids (but some are offered as herbs)

In vaping liquids, nicotine and/or flavouring ingredients are dissolved in a liquid mixture. This mixture is typically made up of propylene glycol and/or glycerol (vegetable glycerin) and other chemicals. Flavouring ingredients include chemicals and blends of chemicals used to make different flavours.

The number of chemical ingredients used in vaping liquids varies. Between 2017-2019, researchers at Health Canada detected an average of 22 chemicals and roughly nine flavouring chemicals in vaping products sold in Canada.End note 1 Additional chemicals can also form when vaping liquids are heated (through the aerosolization process) or when liquids come into contact with parts of the vaping device, such as the coil.

In the vaping liquids that contain nicotine, the level of nicotine can vary widely. Prior to July 2021 in Canada, vaping substance nicotine strengths ranged from 0 to over 60 mg/ml of nicotine. Since July 2021, the Nicotine Concentration in Vaping Products Regulations establish a maximum concentration of 20 mg/mL for vaping products manufactured in or imported into Canada. Legal vaping substances now contain 0 to 20 mg/ml of nicotine.

Nicotine forms

There are two forms of nicotine commonly used in vaping liquids:

  • freebase nicotine
  • nicotine salts

Freebase nicotine

Freebase nicotine is nicotine that has been dissolved in a liquid mixture, typically propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, and other chemicals such as flavouring ingredients.

Freebase nicotine products can be used in refill liquids or in cartridges for closed systems.

Nicotine salts

Nicotine salts refer to nicotine that has been dissolved in a liquid mixture that is chemically adjusted to be weakly acidic. Much like free-base nicotine products, these liquids contain propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, as well as other chemicals such as flavouring ingredients.

Nicotine salts can be used in refill liquids and in cartridges for closed systems.

Did you know?

Vaping products do not contain tobacco. However, nicotine used in vaping liquids is often sourced and extracted from tobacco plants. More recently, products containing synthetic nicotine, which is created through chemical processes, have been made available in Canada. No matter the source, there are risks of vaping with nicotine.

The Mechanics of Vaping (video)

End notes

End note 1

Kosarac, I., Kubwabo, C., Fan, X., Siddique, S., Petraccone, D., He, W., Man, J., Gagne, M., Thickett, K. R., & Mischki, T. K., 2021. Open Characterization of Vaping Liquids in Canada: Chemical Profiles and Trends. Frontiers in chemistry, 9, 756716. https://doi.org/10.3389/fchem.2021.756716

Return to End note 1 referrer

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