Government of Canada: As of May 2018, Health Canada has legalized the sale of e-cigarettes with nicotine as a less harmful option than smoking. However, studies on the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes have not yet been done. Find out more about Health Canada’s perspective on e-cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are a relatively new product category, which first emerged in 2004. E-cigarettes have been growing in use and are a source of great debate among public health advocates and the media. As with most new products, Canadians are interested in knowing more about the associated implications, including the potential health consequences and benefits.
- While early studies show some potential benefit, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device is not fully conclusive. Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic substance. The US Surgeon General has found that nicotine has negative health impacts on fetal development and adolescent brain development. Nicotine is believed to contribute to increased incidence of premature birth, and low birth weight. Research has also shown a negative impact on pulmonary function in newborns. Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to second-hand emissions from e-cigarettes. Initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (all carcinogens) coming from those second-hand emissions. Further, there is concern about e-cigarettes becoming a gateway to regular cigarettes, especially in light of the aggressive industry marketing tactics targeted at youth—including the use of candy flavors and the glamorization of e-cigarette use. Studies are showing a dramatic increase in usage of e-cigarettes, especially among youth.
- Smokers who have tried other methods to quit but have not succeeded could try e-cigarettes. If it helps them stay off cigarettes, individuals unable to quit completely would be better off from a health perspective to use e-cigarettes on a longer-term basis, if needed. Available research indicates that people should completely stop smoking conventional cigarettes to realize the comparative health benefits from using e-cigarettes. The best approach would be to quit altogether, with behavioural support or cessation aids or both, increasing the chance of success. E-cigarettes should not be used by youth, by non-smokers, or by ex-smokers who have quit altogether.