Woman holding a cigarette and an e-cigarette

In recent years, there’s been a significant increase in the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), especially among youth and people looking for an alternative to traditional tobacco.

But what do we really know about the effects of e-cigarettes? The truth is there are more myths than facts around this new method of nicotine delivery. We set the record straight and bust six of the biggest myths about e-cigarettes.

1. E-cigarettes will help me quit smoking.

We don’t know. There is conflicting evidence as to whether e-cigarettes may have benefits for helping people quit smoking. Most people who use e-cigarettes continue to use tobacco. There are currently no e-cigarettes approved by Health Canada as a smoking cessation tool. If you are thinking about quitting, stick to what works. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as the patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler or mist can double your chances of quitting when used correctly. Speak with your health care provider or pharmacist to look at what option is best for you. The province’s free QuitNow and the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program can help.

2. E-cigarettes simply produce water vapour and not any dangerous chemicals.

False. E-cigarettes do in fact emit a number of chemicals. Exposure to these chemicals can cause lung damage as evident by a number of e-cigarette/vaping associated lung illnesses (EVALI) reported in US and Canada. Some patients experiencing this illness have required intensive care treatment and some cases have been fatal. Though most cases have reported using products containing THC, other chemicals of concern have not yet been ruled out. The long-term impacts of vapour inhalation and exposure are unknown.

3. E-cigarettes are not targeted to youth.

False. While e-cigarette companies claim that their ads are not targeted at youth and the appeal of the devices and flavours give rise for concern. More than 46 percent of Canadian Grade 10 to 12 students have tried e-cigarettes, while 29 per cent of these students had tried a cigarette. Students are also confused about the safety of e-cigarettes. Nearly 18 percent of students believe there is “no risk” or “slight risk” of harm from using e-cigarettes with nicotine on a regular basis, while 65 percent of students believe there is “great risk” of harm from smoking cigarettes.

4. E-cigarettes don't contain nicotine.

False. Nicotine is the addictive substance contained in tobacco and the majority of e-juice (the liquid used to produce the vapour from e-cigarettes) contains nicotine in Canada. Because this is an unregulated area, the amount of nicotine in e-juice varies widely between brands and batches, so you may not really know how much nicotine you are getting.

5. E-cigarettes can be smoke anytime, anywhere.

False. Under current B.C. provincial regulations, e-cigarettes are treated the same as tobacco. E-cigarettes cannot be used in public places, workplaces, restaurants or within six metres from any door, window or air intake and on health authority property. Local municipalities may also have bylaws which further restrict their usage in outdoor public places, including patios, parks and playgrounds. Further provincial vaping regulations that are more restrictive will soon come into effect.

6. E-cigarettes are safe.

There has been wide spread agreement among the scientific community that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking tobacco alternative for those who would otherwise smoke tobacco, they are not without risk. E-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals and many of their ingredients have yet to be tested as safe for inhaling. At this point, while evidence is growing on the short term health effects of vaping, the long term risks remain unknown.

So think twice before lighting up an e-cigarette, particularly if you are not currently a smoker. The healthiest choice is not smoking at all and there are supports to help you quit. Visit QuitNow and for smoking cessation, the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program for free coaching, nicotine replacement therapy and support and check out our resources at fraserhealth.ca.

Profile photo of Tracy Hoskin
Community Health Specialist

Tracy Hoskin is a community health specialist with Fraser Health. She has worked both locally and globally for the past ten years on community development initiatives.

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