Nicotine, Vaping, and Your Health

A person holding a vape pen in  one hand and cigarettes in the other

Vapes harm our health and the world we live in. Learn more at

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in tobacco plants. Nicotine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, and repeated exposure to nicotine can lead to dependence. 

Examples of nicotine products include cigarettes, nicotine gum, vapes, and nicotine pouches. Some nicotine products are regulated in terms of how they can be sold and marketed, but this does not currently apply to all products. 

Nicotine pouches have been approved as a smoking cessation aid without evidence of their effectiveness. Although Health Canada has stated that nicotine use during adolescence can have damaging effects on brain development, and they are not recommended for individuals under 18 years of age, they can be sold without requirements for age verification. Their widespread availability has the potential to lead to young people becoming addicted at an early age.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigs or vapes, are battery-powered devices that heat liquid (e-liquid) into a vapour that is inhaled by the user.

Here’s what you should know about these products:

  • Ingredients in the e-liquid vary from product to product, but are usually made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, flavouring, and in many cases highly addictive nicotine.
  • E-cigarettes are available in many shapes and sizes, and simulate the act of smoking. 
  • They can also be used to vapourize cannabis.  
  • E-liquid can be produced in almost any flavour, these flavours can be attractive to youth and can attract non-smokers to try e-cigarettes.

The potential health risks of vaping are not yet known because these products have not been on the market long enough to study the short- and long-term health effects. People who do not smoke should not start vaping.

Some ingredients in e-liquid include propylene glycol and diacetyl which can irritate the lungs. The most common side effects of using e-cigarettes are:

  • sore throat
  • dry cough
  • headaches

The production of vapour products is not controlled, which means these products are not completely checked for safety and quality by Health Canada. Vapour from these products can contain formaldehyde and heavy metals like cadmium, nickel, zinc, and lead.

Vapour released into the air can result in second-hand exposure to vapour compounds. For more information on the risks of vaping visit Health Canada’s website.

Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 it is illegal to:

  • Sell or supply of e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 19.
  • Use of an e-cigarette to vape any substance in all enclosed public spaces and enclosed workplaces, as well as additional prohibited places, such as children’s playgrounds, on and within 20 metres from the perimeter of school grounds and recreational facility property, and  on and within 9 metres of bar/restaurant patios.

It’s also important to be aware of local municipal by-laws that further restrict areas where vaping is permitted.

Since many e-juices contain nicotine, those who do not smoke, should not start vaping.  It’s more important for some individuals especially youth, young adults, pregnant women, and those planning on becoming pregnant should avoid the use of e-cigarettes and exposure to second-hand vapour.

From August 2017 to August 2018 there was a 74% increase in vaping among youth aged 16-19 years in Canada, with vaping increasing from 8.4% to 14.6% in the past 30 days.1 Studies have shown that teens who use vapour products are more likely to start smoking tobacco and smoke more intensely.1,2,3

The young brain is still developing making it more at risk to nicotine. Using e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can lead to a nicotine addiction. Nicotine like cannabis can harm parts of the brain that help people learn, concentrate, and control impulses.


1. Hammond D, Reid JL, Rynard VL, Fong GT, Cummings KM, McNeill A, et al. Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross-sectional surveys. BMJ 2019 Jun 20;l2219.

2. Boak, A. Hamilton, H. A., Adalf, E. M., & Mann, R. E. (2017). Drug use among Ontario students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Public health consequences of e-cigarettes.Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from

Do you want to talk to your teen about vaping and using nicotine products? Try the following tips:

  • Inform yourself about vaping products, nicotine products, and their risks. Discuss the facts with your teens and correct any of their misconceptions.
  • Don’t be afraid to get support. Ask a healthcare provider to talk to your teen. You can also encourage teens to talk to other trusted adults like family members, teachers, or coaches who are aware of these products and their risks.
  • Don’t expect to have just one conversation. As your teen grows, conversations might change. You may find that they lead to other important discussions around alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, or other risky health behaviours.

Visit the following links for more information about vaping: