Vaping is on the rise. Here’s what you need to know.

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What exactly is vaping? Is it more harmful than smoking cigarettes? Is it hard to quit? These are all questions you may have about vaping — a relatively new way of using substances in Canada. Currently, we don’t know a lot about the effects of vaping, especially when it comes to young people and long-term use. Just like with smoking or other substance use, learning about vaping can help you make the most informed choices possible. Here are some important things to know about vaping.

What is vaping?

The act of vaping is similar to smoking cigarettes. With vaping, you breathe in a vapour (like an aerosol or steam) through a device called an e-cigarette (a.k.a. an electronic cigarette, e-cig, e-hookah, mod or vape pen). The vapour may contain chemicals (including nicotine) that give you a similar feeling to smoking cigarettes. Some people may also use e-cigarettes for using other substances, like cannabis.

Why do some people vape?

People may choose to vape for different reasons. They may:

  • be curious or want to experiment
  • want to try or enjoy the flavours
  • do it because their friends/family members/etc. are doing it
  • think vaping is less harmful than cigarettes (or not harmful at all)
  • use e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking cigarettes
  • think they can vape in more places than they can smoke
  • enjoy doing “vape tricks” (making patterns with vapour as you exhale)
  • use vaping as a weight management tool

Is vaping less harmful than smoking cigarettes?

On social media, e-cigarettes are often marketed as safer and less harmful than smoking cigarettes. However, it’s important to remember research is still being done to determine the full effects and safety of vaping. From what we do know, vaping is not necessarily more or less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the effects/risks may be similar.

What are the potential risks of vaping?

The world is still trying to understand the possible effects of vaping. Because there are so many different factors (e.g. individual device, brand, batch, ingredients, etc.) it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the effects of vaping are. Regardless, here are some potential health risks and other things to keep in mind about vaping:

  • Short-term effects of vaping may include mouth/throat irritation, nausea, anxiety, low mood and insomnia.
  • E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco and have fewer chemicals at lower levels when compared to cigarettes. This means using e-cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes may reduce your exposure to some cancer-causing compounds.
  • E-cigarettes do contain toxic chemicals and the long-term effects of vaping are currently unknown.
  • E-cigarettes can be very addictive. They may contain nicotine, an addictive substance also found in cigarettes. Nicotine can have numerous side effects — including cravings — and can negatively affect your lungs, heart, memory and concentration. It’s been reported that some e-cigarette brands have mislabelled the amount of nicotine in their products, so you may be inhaling more than you think. Some people choose to use “just flavouring” as opposed to “flavouring and nicotine” when vaping.
  • Using e-cigarettes as a way to quit/reduce smoking cigarettes has been promoted in ads, but it’s not yet known if this is an effective approach.
  • Some studies report e-cigarette use may lead to smoking cigarettes. Many people who use e-cigarettes have a history of smoking cigarettes or use both at the same time.
  • It’s still possible to experience “second-hand smoke” from vaping, although the risk of harm is lower for bystanders when compared to cigarettes.

How can I quit vaping?

Similar to smoking, there are some safer use tips you can try if you want to quit vaping. It’s important to remember that vaping may be difficult to stop doing, but it is possible to quit, even if it takes a few tries. You can:

  • talk to your health-care professional about vaping, your health and how to stop
  • write down all the reasons you want to stop and put the list in a place where you’ll see it often
  • tell others about your plans to stop and ask them to support you as you go
  • choose a “quit date” and try to stick to it
  • ask a friend to stop vaping with you
  • join a support group or start one of your own
  • visit Resources Around Me for substance use support services near you
  • remember to reward yourself for your success — every step counts!

If you have questions about substance use and how to quit, you can talk to a health-care professional or other safe adult. You can also reach out to Kids Help Phone 24/7 by textphone and Live Chat. We’re always here for you.