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What is vaping?
Vaping uses electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) to simulate traditional cigarette smoking. E-cigarettes are battery-powered or chargeable smoking devices. Some look like traditional cigarettes or pipes. Others are designed to look like pens or USB memory sticks. They use a cartridge (or pod) filled with liquid. The liquid can contain nicotine and flavourings, as well as other chemicals. When you puff on the mouthpiece of the device, it activates a heating element. This heats up the liquid in the pod and turns it into vapour. You then inhale the vapour. This is why it’s called “vaping.”
How is vaping different from JUULing?
Vaping and JUULing are the same thing. JUUL (a brand of e-cigarettes that look like USB memory sticks) is a very popular vaping device among teenagers. So popular, in fact, that its brand name has become a verb to describe vaping. Teens may also use the term “ripping” to describe smoking an e-cigarette or JUUL. For more on JUULing and how it relates to teens, see “Teens and Vaping,” below.
The makers of e-cigarettes market them for a variety of uses. Researchers are still in the early stages of studying e-cigarettes. But studies have shown that e-cigarettes may still contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine.
- E-Cigs have a lot of unknowns. According to Health Canada, vaping is not without risk, and the long term effects are not yet known.
- E-cigs are addictive. While there are some cartridges that don’t contain nicotine, most do. Any time a smoker inhales nicotine, they are inhaling an addicting and harmful chemical.
- You cannot use e-cigs indoors. At first, makers of e-cigarettes said that e-cigarettes were appealing because they could be smoked in places that didn’t allow traditional cigarette smoking. This is no longer true. Many provinces have created laws that prohibit vaping in the same areas where traditional smoking is not allowed.
What are the risks of vaping?
Experts have a number of concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes and vaping.
- E-cigarettes can contain nicotine. In large doses, nicotine can be toxic.
- Nicotine stimulates your central nervous system. This increases your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. Higher doses of nicotine can cause blood pressure and heart rate to go up higher. This can lead to an abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia). In rare cases, this can cause heart failure or death. Over time, nicotine can lead to medical problems. These include heart disease, blood clots, and stomach ulcers.
- Nicotine increases the level of dopamine in your brain. This chemical messenger affects the part of the brain that controls feelings of pleasure. It can motivate you to use nicotine again and again to get that feeling of pleasure. You do this even though you know it is a risk to your health and well-being. That is what makes nicotine addictive.
- There are often chemicals in the liquid. The ingredients typically found in vaping liquids include glycerol, flavours, and propylene glycol.
- Tiny particles are released by the heating element and may be harmful. These particles can cause inflammation in the lungs, which can cause bacterial infections or pneumonia.
- The liquid in the cartridge can be poisonous if someone touches, sniffs, or drinks it. There has been an increase in poisoning cases of children under 5 who have had access to the liquid.
- “Second-hand smoke” is still a problem for e-cigarettes. Second-hand e-cigarette vapour contains chemicals that harm the lungs and hearts of people who aren’t vaping.
Teens and Vaping
E-cigarettes are popular among teens. Recent data from Health Canada states that 23% of students in grades 7-12 have tried vaping.
Teenagers face increased risks from e-cigarettes. The teen years are a critical time in brain development. This puts young people uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Nicotine affects the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning. It puts kids at higher risk of having mood disorders and permanent problems with impulse control.
Kids who use e-cigs are also more likely to become smokers than kids who do not, according to a three-year study. The study followed high school students as they transitioned from e-cigarettes to traditional ones.
There is much still to be learned about e-cigarettes and vaping. Since it’s relatively new, there aren’t long-term studies on the effects it may have.
How do I talk to my child about vaping?
If you suspect your child is vaping (and even if you don’t), ask them about it. Start a conversation. Ask if they’ve seen friends doing it or seen vaping at school. Use this opportunity to tell them the risks of vaping. Vaping can be addictive. Vaping can sometimes lead to smoking. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and emphysema.
What if my child is already vaping?
Talk to your child about quitting. Make an appointment for you and your child to talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to quit or access local resources.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Canadian Lung Association