Risks of vaping

Vaping nicotine can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Vaping can expose you to chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Young people and those who do not use tobacco products should not vape because it is not completely harmless.

If you are an adult that currently smokes, switching completely to vaping is a less harmful option than continuing to smoke.

Learn more about vaping and quitting smoking.

On this page

Health risks of vaping with nicotine

Most of what we currently know about the health effects of nicotine comes from studying smoking and addiction, but research on the effects of vaping nicotine is ongoing. Most vaping substances available for sale in Canada contain nicotine. A vaping product can deliver more or less nicotine than a cigarette.Footnote 1

Nicotine is the substance responsible for cravings and withdrawal symptoms, which can make quitting challenging.Footnote 2 Vaping with nicotine can cause physical dependence and/or addiction among users who have not previously used nicotine (e.g. do not already smoke).

For information on nicotine and withdrawal symptoms, visit nicotine addiction.

When inhaled, nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and then moves quickly through the bloodstream, entering the brain and other organs of the body. Similar to smoking cigarettes, vaping nicotine can cause short-term increases to blood pressure and heart rate in the minutes and hours after use. Footnote 3, Footnote 4

Among other factors, health risks associated with nicotine depend on the product/device and how it is used, as well as the person's age. Kids and teens who vape nicotine are particularly at risk to the harmful effects of nicotine.

Did you know?

No vaping products have been approved as therapeutics (cessation aids) in Canada. However, nicotine is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, (e.g. the patch, inhaler or nicotine gum) to ease withdrawal symptoms and help people quit smoking. Nicotine itself is not known to cause cancer.Footnote 5

For more information on nicotine replacement therapies visit how to quit.

Effects of nicotine on kids and teens

While vaping products can help people quit smoking and switching completely to vaping is less harmful than continuing to smoke, it is not harmless and not intended for young people.

Kids and teens are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of nicotine because brain development continues throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. Footnote 6

Evidence suggests the developing brain may be more sensitive to the effects of nicotine compared to adults.

Youth may also become dependent on nicotine with lower levels of exposure than adults. Footnote 7 Once a young person shows symptoms of dependence and addiction to nicotine, it can be hard to stop vaping.

There are also concerns about the appeal of vaping products among youth and their potential to promote tobacco use. There is limited evidence that vaping product use increases the risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes (smoking cigarettes) among youth and young adults. Footnote 8, Footnote 9 However, recent data suggests that, thus far, smoking rates, for both youth and adults, continue to decline and are at an all-time low. The 2021 Canadian Community Health Survey indicated that smoking among Canadians aged 15 years and older was 12 percent. Footnote 10

Other chemicals in vaping aerosol

Vaping products produce only a small fraction of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke, as well as lower levels of some of the potentially harmful ones.

Still, vaping aerosol (sometimes known as "vapour" and mistakenly called "water vapour") contains some potentially harmful chemicals. In addition to nicotine, vaping liquids typically contain glycerol (vegetable glycerin) and propylene glycol (PG), and chemicals used for flavouring. While these ingredients are considered safe for use in cosmetics and foods, the long-term risks of inhaling these substances are unknown and continue to be researched.

There is no burning during vaping, but the vaping process involves heating a liquid. At high temperatures, PG and glycerol break apart to form new chemicals called carbonyl compounds, also known as aldehydes (e.g. formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, etc.).Footnote 11 Using vaping products with higher power and temperature settings can produce greater numbers and amounts of potentially harmful chemicals.Footnote 12, Footnote 13, Footnote 14, Footnote 15 Some metal contaminants (e.g. nickel, chromium, tin, aluminum) may also get into the aerosol as the metal heating element ages.Footnote 16 Some of these chemicals and metals are known to cause cancer, however, the levels found in vaping aerosol are significantly lower than those found in cigarette smoke.Footnote 17

Potential health effects of vaping aerosol

It is difficult to assess the exact impacts of vaping on human health. This is because the quantities and number of chemicals from vaped aerosol, which users are exposed to, depend on things like the type of device, temperature setting, vaping liquid ingredients and quality, as well as individual vaping patterns.

Some of the chemicals and contaminants found in vaping aerosol are associated with negative health effects. The most common types of side effects reported by people who use vaping products are throat and mouth irritation, headache, cough, and nausea.Footnote 18

More research is needed to establish the risks of long-term vaping product use on developing cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, and other diseases.Footnote 19 Health Canada will continue to provide information based on the highest quality of evidence and science available.

Did you know?

Vaping is not known to cause Popcorn lung.

Bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as "Popcorn lung"), a chronic disease that damages the small airways in the lungs, has been linked to diacetyl exposure. Diacetyl is a flavouring chemical used to give butter-like and other flavours to food.

While once common in vaping products, researchers at Health Canada have in recent years found diacetyl in only 2 samples out of more than 800 vaping liquids available in Canada.Footnote 20 To date, there have been no confirmed cases of popcorn lung disease as a result of vaping in Canada.

Vaping and pregnancy

While vaping products contain fewer harmful chemicals than cigarettes, they expose you and the fetus to chemicals that have health risks, including nicotine. Talk to your health care provider about your options for quitting vaping during pregnancy.

Second-hand aerosol vs second-hand smoke

Bystanders can be exposed to aerosol that is exhaled by people who vape.

The health effects from exposure to second-hand aerosol from vaping are still being studied. Due to variability in chemicals in vape aerosol, it is difficult to quantify the amount of chemical exposure and hence the risks associated with second-hand aerosol.Footnote 21, Footnote 22, Footnote 23

However, the risks are expected to be much lower compared to second-hand smoke from a tobacco product (e.g. cigarette smoke). This is because second-hand aerosol from vaping contains significantly fewer chemicals than cigarette smoke.

Second-hand smoke is made up of exhaled smoke, as well as side-stream smoke, which is the result of the cigarette burning in between puffs. Up to 85% of second-hand smoke comes from side-stream smoke, whereas exposure to second-hand aerosol comes largely from exhaled breath when vaping.Footnote 24

There is some evidence that e-cigarette use increases the level of nicotine and other chemicals on indoor surfaces and within indoor air.Footnote 25, Footnote 26 Nicotine has been detected in blood and urine of non-users exposed to second-hand aerosol.Footnote 27

It is recommended to only vape outdoors and to be cautious about using vaping products around others. Note that many provinces and municipalities prohibit the use of vaping products where smoking is prohibited.

Vaping Cannabis

Cannabis contains chemicals that could harm your physical and/or mental health.

Cannabis can be consumed in different ways. Two common ways are:

  • inhalation (smoking or vaping)
  • ingestion (eating or drinking)

The aerosol from vaping cannabis can also include harmful and potentially carcinogenic substances, such as benzenes and styrene.Footnote 28, Footnote 29

Unlike other vaping liquids, those containing cannabis do not use glycerine or propylene glycol; rather, they typically use a botanical extract or terpene blend, which may carry their own risks.

For information on the health risks of cannabis use, visit Cannabis and your health.

Did you know?

The use of vaping products outside of the legal market can pose additional risks to health and safety.

In 2019, there was an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI, referred to as VALI in Canada), which caused thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths in the United States (US). Canada experienced a small number of cases of VALI and no deaths have been reported to date.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's outbreak investigation did not identify a common cause of VALI in Canada. However, evidence from the US suggests a link to unregulated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing vaping products that contained additives, such as Vitamin E acetate.Footnote 30

A clear finding from the outbreaks in the US and Canada is that Canadians should not use any vaping products, including products containing cannabis, obtained from illegal or unregulated sources. Vaping products obtained from illegal or unregulated sources may be contaminated with adulterants like Vitamin E acetate, which is not allowed in regulated products because of the harm it can pose when inhaled.

Learn more about VALI in Canada at vaping-associated lung illness.

Vaping Product Safety

Nicotine poisoning

Vaping liquid containing nicotine is poisonous, young children are more susceptible to harm from nicotine.

Even in small amounts, vaping liquid containing nicotine can be very harmful if:

  • swallowed
  • absorbed through the skin

There have been deaths as well as incidents of non-fatal nicotine poisoning caused by children swallowing vaping liquid.Footnote 31

Containers of vaping liquid with nicotine must have a child-resistant closure and a 'poison' hazard symbol. The closure and symbol are required by law. They help protect children in three ways:

  • Making it harder for a child to access the liquid in the container.
  • Visually indicating to keep the product out of sight and reach of children.
  • Children are taught that the hazard symbol means Danger! Do not touch.

Tips to handle vaping liquids safely

  • Store out of sight and reach of young children and pets.
  • Store vaping liquid in a cool, dry place where it cannot be confused for food, drinks, or medicine.
  • Close the container securely after each use.
  • Wash your hands immediately after handling vaping liquid.
  • If someone has swallowed vaping liquids, seek emergency medical attention or call 9-1-1.

Refer to use household chemicals safely for more information.

Batteries and vaping devices

Although uncommon, another risk to consider is that defective batteries or defective vaping devices can cause fires and explosions.

Lithium-ion batteries and vaping devices can pose a hazard if they are not properly:

  • used
  • stored
  • carried
  • charged

Tips to prevent injuries from lithium-ion batteries used with vaping devices

  • Do not modify your vaping device.
  • Buy lithium-ion batteries that are compatible with your vaping device.
  • Buy lithium-ion batteries from a trusted source.
  • Do not carry spare lithium-ion batteries in your pocket or anywhere they can come into contact with loose coins, keys or other metal objects. Lithium-ion batteries can overheat, catch fire or even explode when in contact with metal objects. Reported incidents have caused serious injuries.
  • Keep spare lithium-ion batteries in a protective case.
  • Read the manufacturer's instructions for storing and recharging your vaping device.
  • Do not exceed the recommended charging time.
  • Choose vaping devices certified to a safety standard, such as ANSI/CAN/UL 8139, to reduce the risk of a fire or explosion.
  • Do not use or charge vaping devices near oxygen sources, such as pressurized containers used for oxygen therapy.

Refer to battery safety and electrical product safety for more information.

Reporting a device malfunction

Vaping devices are regulated under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

If you notice a safety problem with a vaping device or vaping liquid, you can report the problem:

For more information on product safety requirements and how to protect yourself, read about vaping product safety and regulation.

For more information


Footnote 1

Voos, N., Goniewicz, M. L., & Eissenberg, T., 2019. What is the nicotine delivery profile of electronic cigarettes?. Expert opinion on drug delivery, 16(11), 1193–1203. https://doi.org/10.1080/17425247.2019.1665647

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Footnote 2

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Eaton, D. L., Kwan, L. Y., & Stratton, K. (Eds.)., 2018. Public Health Consequences of ECigarettes. National Academies Press (US). 

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Footnote 3

Franzen, K. F., Willig, J., Cayo Talavera, S., Meusel, M., Sayk, F., Reppel, M., Dalhoff, K., Mortensen, K., & Droemann, D., 2018. E-cigarettes and cigarettes worsen peripheral and central hemodynamics as well as arterial stiffness: A randomized, double-blinded pilot study. Vascular medicine (London, England), 23(5), 419–425. https://doi.org/10.1177/1358863X18779694

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Footnote 4

Antoniewicz, L., Brynedal, A., Hedman, L., Lundbäck, M., & Bosson, J. A., 2019. Acute Effects of Electronic Cigarette Inhalation on the Vasculature and the Conducting Airways. Cardiovascular toxicology, 19(5), 441–450. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12012-019-09516-x

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Footnote 5

IARC, 2012. Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 100E. Retrieved from https://publications.iarc.fr/Book-And-Report-Series/Iarc-Monographs-On-The-Identification-Of-Carcinogenic-Hazards-To-Humans/Personal-Habits-And-Indoor-Combustions-2012

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Footnote 6

US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012. Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US 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, 3.

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Footnote 7

Smith, R.F., McDonald, C.G., Bergstrom, H.C., Ehlinger, D.G. and Brielmaier, J.M., 2015. Adolescent nicotine induces persisting changes in development of neural connectivity. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 55, pp.432-443. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.05.019

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Footnote 8

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Eaton, D. L., Kwan, L. Y., & Stratton, K. (Eds.)., 2018. Public Health Consequences of ECigarettes. National Academies Press (US). 

Return to footnote 8 referrer

Footnote 9

Nicotine Dependence Service, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Lower-Risk Nicotine Use Guidelines (LRNUG). Retrieved from https://www.nicotinedependenceclinic.com/en/Pages/Lower-Risk-Nicotine-Use-Guidelin%E2%80%8Bes.aspx.

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Footnote 10

Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)., 2021. Statistics Canada.

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Footnote 11

El-Hellani, A., Salman, R., El-Hage, R., Talih, S., Malek, N., Baalbaki, R., Karaoghlanian, N., Nakkash, R., Shihadeh, A., & Saliba, N. A., 2018. Nicotine and Carbonyl Emissions From Popular Electronic Cigarette Products: Correlation to Liquid Composition and Design Characteristics. Nicotine & tobacco research: official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 20(2), 215–223. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntw280

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Footnote 12

Geiss, O., Bianchi, I., & 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. International journal of hygiene and environmental health, 219(3), 268–277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.01.004

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Footnote 13

Gillman, I. G., Kistler, K. A., Stewart, E. W., & Paolantonio, A. R., 2016. Effect of variable power levels on the yield of total aerosol mass and formation of aldehydes in e-cigarette aerosols. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology, 75, 58–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.12.019

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Footnote 14

Kosmider, L., Sobczak, A., Fik, M., Knysak, J., Zaciera, M., Kurek, J., & Goniewicz, M. L., 2014. Carbonyl compounds in electronic cigarette vapors: effects of nicotine solvent and battery output voltage. Nicotine & tobacco research: official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 16(10), 1319–1326. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntu078

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Footnote 15

Massey, Z. B., Brockenberry, L. O., Murray, T. E., & Harrell, P. T., 2021. Dripping Technology Use Among Young Adult E-Cigarette Users. Tobacco Use Insights. https://doi.org/10.1177/1179173X211035448

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Footnote 16

Halstead, M., Gray, N., Gonzalez-Jimenez, N., Fresquez, M., Valentin-Blasini, L., Watson, C., & Pappas, R. S., 2020. Analysis of Toxic Metals in Electronic Cigarette Aerosols Using a Novel Trap Design. Journal of analytical toxicology, 44(2), 149–155. https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkz078

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Footnote 17

IARC., 2022. Monographs on the identification of carcinogenic hazards to humans. https://monographs.iarc.who.int/list-of-classifications

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Footnote 18

Hartmann-Boyce J, Lindson N, Butler AR, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Theodoulou A, Notley C, Rigotti NA, Turner T, Fanshawe TR, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2022, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD010216. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub7.

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Footnote 19

Tarran, R., Barr, G., Benowitz, N.L et al., 2021. E-Cigarettes and Cardiopulmonary Health. Function (2)2. https://doi.org/10.1093/function/zqab004

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Footnote 20

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

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Footnote 21

Papaefstathiou, E., Bezantakos, S., Stylianou, M., Biskos, G., & Agapiou, A., 2020. Comparison of particle size distributions and volatile organic compounds exhaled by e-cigarette and cigarette users. Journal of Aerosol Science, 141(Complete). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaerosci.2019.105487

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Footnote 22

Martuzevicius, D., Prasauskas, T., Setyan, A., O'Connell, G., Cahours, X., Julien, R., & Colard, S., 2019. Characterization of the Spatial and Temporal Dispersion Differences Between Exhaled E-Cigarette Mist and Cigarette Smoke. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 21(10), 1371–1377. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/nty121

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Footnote 23

Zhang, L., Lin, Y. and Zhu, Y., 2020. Transport and Mitigation of Exhaled Electronic Cigarette Aerosols in a Multizone Indoor Environment. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 2536–2547. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2020.03.0088

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Footnote 24

Lee, Y. H., Gawron, M., & Goniewicz, M. L., 2015. Changes in puffing behavior among smokers who switched from tobacco to electronic cigarettes. Addictive behaviors, 48, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.04.003

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Footnote 25

van Drooge, B. L., Marco, E., Perez, N., & Grimalt, J. O., 2019. Influence of electronic cigarette vaping on the composition of indoor organic pollutants, particles, and exhaled breath of bystanders. Environmental science and pollution research international, 26(5), 4654–4666. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3975-x

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Footnote 26

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.

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Footnote 27

Johnson, J. M., Naeher, L. P., Yu, X., Sosnoff, C., Wang, L., Rathbun, S. L., De Jesús, V. R., Xia, B., Holder, C., Muilenburg, J. L., & Wang, J. S., 2019. A biomonitoring assessment of secondhand exposures to electronic cigarette emissions. International journal of hygiene and environmental health, 222(5), 816–823. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.04.013

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Footnote 28

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention., 2018. Facts About Benzene. Retrieved from https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp#:~:text=The%20Department%20of%20

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Footnote 29

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences., 2022. Styrene. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/styrene/index.cfm

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Footnote 30

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention., 2020. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-cigarette, or Vaping Products. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

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Footnote 31

Government of Canada., 2020. At-a-glance – Injuries and poisonings associated with e-cigarettes and vaping substances, electronic Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, 2011–2019. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/health-promotion-chronic-disease-prevention-canada-research-policy-practice/vol-40-no-7-8-2020/injuries-poisonings-e-cigarettes-vaping-substances-echirpp-2011-2019.html

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