Since coming onto the market in the mid-2000s, e-cigarette use, or vaping, has grown at an explosive rate, especially among non-smokers and youth. While the e-cigarette landscape continues to evolve quickly, people often have more questions than answers about vaping products.
E-cigarettes, or vapes, are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (e-liquid/e-juice) until it vapourizes into an aerosol. They come in many shapes and sizes from box-like devices with mouth pieces to small flat sticks that look similar to a USB memory stick. E-liquid is sold in bottles so that the user can customize and fill their own device, or in pre-filled cartridges/pods that snap into one end of the vape.
The terms vape or e-cigarette can often be used interchangeably. Some users may differentiate by type of device, or the substance that is being used in the device. Other terms that may describe the devices in general or specific types include “e-cigs,” “vaporizers”, “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” “box mods”, “pod mods”, and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)”. Popular brands, such as JUUL, are often referred to by name, including modifiers, such as “juuling”.
Vaping is the act of using a vape/e-cigarette. The user inhales and exhales the vapour, which is an aerosol produced by the device. The exhaled aerosol can produce large or small clouds depending on the device used.
There is a common misconception that the aerosol is just a harmless water vapour. In fact, it is a chemical mixture containing many fine particles. The main ingredients of an e-liquid are propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavouring and nicotine. When these chemicals are heated to form an aerosol, many different chemicals are formed such as:
- Volatile organic compounds – Can cause cancer.
- Heavy metals – Can cause cancer.
- Ultrafine particles – Embed deep into the lung tissues to cause damage.
- Nicotine – Highly addictive.
These particles are inhaled through the mouth into the lungs and then are absorbed into the bloodstream where they are circulated to all parts of the body, including the brain. Some of the aerosol remains in the lungs as residue and the rest is exhaled back into the air forming a white smoke or cloud.
Vaping is harmful, but it is less harmful than smoking. People who smoke may reduce harm if they completely switch to vaping. People who do not smoke should not begin to vape. Vaping risks include:
- Nicotine dependence or addiction – Addiction happens quickly in youth and may predispose youth to other addictions.
- Nicotine impacts youth brain – Negatively affects mood, memory, learning, concentration and impulse control.
- Nicotine toxicity can occur among youth and non-smokers from frequent use, as well as in children or pets from swallowing e-liquid.
- Exposure to harmful chemicals through inhaling, ingesting, or absorption through skin.
- Lung damage – See section below.
- Long-term health consequences of vaping are still unknown.
Acute Lung Injury
Recently in the US there have been a number of deaths and over two thousand individuals who have developed serious lung illness due to vaping. Cases are also being reported in Canada and officials say they are watching the situation closely. Link to latest CDC outbreak information.
The source of all illnesses in the U.S. remains unclear; however, the US CDC reports that chemical exposure is the likely cause. Many patients have reported vaping THC, the high-inducing agent in cannabis, and/or nicotine-containing products. However, at this time, no consistent product, substance or additive has been identified in all cases.
If you use vaping products, or have used vaping products in the past, monitor yourself for symptoms of lung illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health. Be sure to indicate to your health care professional that you currently vape, or have in the past, and what you were vaping.
- Unusual pens or USB drives or an unfamiliar battery or battery charging device.
- Devices vary; some look like flash drives, highlighters, cell phones.
- E-juice bottles, pods (that contain e-juice) or product packaging.
- Monitor for unusual packages that come in the mail or purchases made online and charged to a credit card.
- Appears to be concealing something up a shirt sleeve.
- Raising a shirt up over the face/mouth.
- Social media activity demonstrates pro-vape attitudes such as pictures of youth vaping or vape products.
- Blood shot eyes.
- Seeing small or large clouds of white aerosol.
- Sweet or fruity scent without any visible source.
- JUUL or JUULing
- Sharing flavours or pods.
- Nic, nic’ing out, nic sick – refers to nicotine.
- Ghosting –refers to holding in a JUUL puff to absorb more of the nicotine and produce a smaller cloud.
Nicotine is in most vapes. Pod vapes, like JUUL contain very high concentrations of nicotine and are very addictive (1 JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a package of cigarettes). The more you vape, the more your brain and body gets used to having nicotine, and the harder it is to go without it. Nicotine addiction can look different from person to person. Even if you only vape once in a while, you can be addicted and can have a hard time quitting.
Some signs of nicotine addiction include:
- Cravings, or feeling like you really need to vape.
- Changing daily routines to make time to vape.
- Feeling anxious, irritable or distracted if you want to vape but can’t.
- Continuing to vape because you find it hard to stop.
- Vaping is causing trouble with relationships and activities – friends, family, school, sports.
- Hiding vaping from parents, teachers, or friends who don’t vape .
- Breaking the law to vape – in school, on school grounds, on the bus.
- Vaping soon after you wake up, or vaping when you wake up at night.
When you’re addicted to nicotine, you may experience symptoms of nicotine withdrawal after you stop vaping. Common symptoms of withdrawal can include:
- Feeling sad or irritable
- Having trouble sleeping
These symptoms are usually strongest in the first week after quitting, but they are only temporary.
While research on quitting vaping is in early stages, many best practices from quitting smoking can be applied.
Know Your Reasons for Quitting
Quitting vaping can be hard and it can help to keep you motivated and on track if you know your reasons for quitting. Write them down and keep them with you for some quick encouragement during tough times. To help identify these reasons, ask yourself, “Why is it important for me to quit vaping?” Think about the ways that vaping interferes with things that are important to you, like your independence, relationships, health, finances and your future. Here are some other questions to help you explore this topic:
- How does vaping affect my relationships with my friends, parents, partner, or other people important to me?
- How does vaping or thinking about vaping interfere with my schoolwork or grades?
- Are there activities that I used to enjoy that have changed because of vaping?
- Am I spending a lot of money to keep vaping?
- What am I looking forward to the most after quitting?
Set a Quit Date
Quitting vaping can be tough. Choose a date and stick to it! Prepare yourself, leading up to your quit date, for the challenges ahead.
Plan for Challenges
The first few weeks of quitting vaping are usually the hardest. Take it one day at a time. You may face some challenges along the way, but knowing what to expect and being prepared can help.
- Learn your triggers. Think about the things that make you want to vape and make a plan to remain vape-free in these situations.
- Prepare for cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Think about the coping strategies that you will use to make it through vape-free. Nicotine cravings are temporary and will fade over time the longer you stay quit.
- Resist temptations. Avoid places and situations where others are vaping or plan for how you will handle these situations. Plan what you will say or do if someone offers you a vape.
- Learn from your mistakes. Use slips as an opportunity to learn. Figure out why it happened, and come up with a plan to prevent it from happening again. Think about what you will do differently the next time you find yourself in the same situation.
Ask Others to Help You Succeed
Build your team. Asking for help is important when trying to quit vaping. People don’t need to be experts on vaping to provide support for quitting. Qualities such as being a good role model and listener, as well as being encouraging, patient and caring is all you need.
- Identify the people who you trust and can depend on for support: family, friends, teachers, coaches etc.
- How can others provide the support you need? Would you like some ideas to keep busy or words of encouragement? Would you like a daily check-in? Do you need someone to listen to your struggles and keep you company through the difficult bits? Think about how you would like to be supported and let your people know how they can help.
- Support is also available from specialists such as your school counsellor, public health or health care providers such as a family doctor or nurse practitioner.
Dealing with people who don’t get it. Some important people in your life may not understand your decision to quit. It can be frustrating or discouraging when someone in your life is not as supportive as you’d like. Try one of these strategies:
- Distance yourself. You may need to take a break from unsupportive people when you first quit. Let them know that you need to make quitting vaping your priority right now.
- Recommit to quitting. Remind yourself why you are quitting and why being vape-free is important to you.
- Ask them to respect your decision. Not everyone will know how to be supportive, and that’s okay. Ask them not to vape around you or offer you to use their vape.
- Lean on positive people. Spend time with people who make you feel good about your decision and who want you to quit.
Quitting can be tough but with a good plan and extra support, you can do it! Take the time to reward yourself for large and small successes. Perhaps save the money you would normally spend on vaping to purchase something you want. Small rewards along the way can help encourage you to continue on your path to a vape-free life where the largest reward is getting your freedom back!
For more information about quitting vaping, please visit https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping
Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, smoking or vaping any substance is not allowed in any enclosed public place and other places designated as smoke-free and vape-free. Breaking this law could result in a fine of $305.00.
For a complete list, visit: Where smoking and vaping is not allowed in Ontario.
It is illegal to sell or supply commercial tobacco products, e-cigarettes, or e-liquid to anyone under 19 years of age. This includes underage friends sharing products or parents giving products to their kids. Breaking this law could result in a fine of $490.00.
Learn more about the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017.
Resources for Youth
Resources for Parents School Staff and Allies
- Talking with your teen about vaping: a tip sheet for parents
- Posters, Mirror Clings, Activity Pages Resources – Consider the Consequences
- Downloadable Presentation – Vaping 101: For Parents, School Staff and Allies (PPTX)
- Not an Experiment – Microsite and downloadable resources
- US Surgeon General Resources
For Further Information
Call the Tobacco Control Program: (807) 625-5900
Or toll-free: 1-888-294-6630