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Are e-cigarettes safe?


(This post was updated September 2019 to reflect changes to the legal availability of vape products containing nicotine and to reflect some other changes to how e-cigarettes are regulated. There is also a new post from September 2019 here.)

Leslie Gibson, occupational therapist and member of Sunnybrook’s Smoking Cessation Committee, answers some common questions about e-cigarettes.

What is an e-cigarette?

An e-cigarette is an electronic device that has a fluid-filled cartridge and a battery. When you puff on the e-cigarette, a sensor goes off and the fluid is heated, which produces a vapour that is inhaled like a cigarette and then exhaled.

There are lots of types and so they can look different.

Are e-cigarettes legal?

In 2009, a Health Canada Advisory discouraged the use of e-cigarettes as they may pose health risks and haven’t been fully evaluated for safety and quality. In addition, Health Canada said e-cigarettes cannot be marketed as having any health benefits.

In May 2016, Bill 45 was passed in Ontario, which outlines where you cannot use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are now viewed like regular cigarettes — you can’t use them anywhere you can’t smoke cigarettes. So, you cannot use e-cigarettes in buildings, on patios, at baseball diamonds, parks, or anywhere on hospital property.

In May 2018, legislation was passed to allow the sale of vape products containing nicotine in Canada.

Vaping is covered by the Smoke Free Ontario Act. People over age 19 can buy these products in Canada and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act has rules about where you can use them.

What are your concerns about e-cigarettes?

My concerns are the common concerns among health-professionals.

E-cigarettes have been sort of glamorized as smoking’s cool cousin. And the flavours seem to appeal to teens. This goes against all the gains made with the tobacco industry in not marketing to teens and the province’s move toward having a “smoke free” environment.

E-cigarettes have not been around long enough for researchers to study the long-term effects. Do we know exactly what is in the pods? What are you breathing in? Who made it? Who made the battery device and how – is that safe?

So what’s the bottom line?

While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than regular cigarettes, more research needs to be done to even properly compare the use of e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes. The bottom line is: Don’t reach to either.

What about using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking regular cigarettes?

More research needs to be done to see if e-cigarettes are an effective way to help people quit smoking. If you are trying to quit, there are things you can do that have been proven through research as helpful. Use nicotine replacement therapies. These have been studied. (Things like nicotine gum, lozenges or the patch, vaporizers or inhalers)

If you want to quit smoking, speak to your health-care team, or check out some online resources at

About the author


Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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1 Comment

  • Barring unforeseen issues, if a person really wishes and desires to quit smoking, I feel that they will succeed after no more than 2-3 attempts. The AA principles apply, I also think: admit to addiction, have a desire to quit, and then do with not “I choose this future date.” or “I will finish this pack and then quit.”. etc and no not questions asked. These ideals lead to more of a chance of success than excuses.