e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that have cartridges with liquid chemicals in them. Heat to a battery-powered atomizer turns the chemicals into a vapour - actually an aerosol - the user inhales (called vaping). E-cigarettes can look like regular cigarettes. Some electronic vaping products look like cigars or pipes or even USB sticks. E-cigarettes can be disposable or reusable. Reusable e-cigarettes have cartridges or pods with liquid in them that can either be refilled or replaced with e-liquid.
The most common contents are a mix of water and propylene glycol. Many e-cigarettes also have chemicals added to give the vapour a flavour. Testing has found that most e-liquids have nicotine in them, even though they may be sold as “nicotine-free”.
The short answer is "no" e-cigarettes are not safe.
Given that e-cigarettes don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the main toxins found in a tobacco cigarette, they’re likely safer than smoking a regular cigarette—but that doesn’t mean they’re harmless.
Propylene glycol, one of the main ingredients in e-liquid, is a food preservative. We don’t know yet if vaporized propylene glycol or the other chemicals in the cartridges are safe to inhale. They may irritate the lungs and airways over time. We also don’t know if the chemicals added to give flavour are safe. We do know that heating vaping liquids creates other chemicals that may have harmful health effects.
Because chemicals in the cartridges vary, it’s hard to know what e-cigarette users and people nearby are breathing in. There are also risks using e-cigarettes in pregnancy, as we do know that the chemicals affect how a baby’s brain develops. This remains to be true throughout childhood. This means that children and teens are especially at risk when exposed to these products.
A recent study identified that adolescent e-cigarette users were exposed to cancer-causing organic chemicals when vaping.
Health Canada warns of potential risk of pulmonary illness associated with vaping products
Dr. Andrew Pipe, a cardiovascular specialist at the Ottawa Heart Institute, presented to 1,400 health professionals across Canada in a webinar in January 2020. In his opinion, based on the current evidence, he would discourage vaping of any product. The webinar recording will be available in the near future.
New Brunswick treats e-cigarettes the same as tobacco cigarettes, limiting their use to designated vaping areas. Vaping e-cigarettes indoors or in vehicles where others may be exposed to vapour, including children and pregnant women, isn’t recommended because of the health concerns around being exposed to second-hand vape.
Many places in Canada are now limiting where you can use e-cigarettes.
Early studies show that using e-cigarettes may help some people quit smoking, but more research has to be done. We do know that the health risks are lower only when the person completely switches from cigarettes to vaping. People who use e-cigarettes to quit will likely be more successful when they do it with the support of stop vaping services like this one.
Teens and young adults are especially at risk for the negative effects related to nicotine. Their brains are still developing up to the age of 25. Nicotine changes how the brain works.
The number of Canadian young people surveyed who said they had ever tried vaping rose to 40.6 per cent in 2019 from 29.3 per cent in 2017. In Canada, we saw a rise in vaping rates for youth in 2018 which coincides with the introduction of a nicotine salt vape product (e.g. Juul). Advertisers used lifestyle marketing strategies to appeal to teens and young adults which seemed to have a dramatic impact on the uptake of these products. Juul came under heavy criticism for this strategy and has since pulled the marketing campaigns.