QuitNow BCBritish Columbia Lung Association

Don’t be fooled by E-Cigarettes. We recommend people try proven methods of quitting. 

Veda Peters, Tobacco Education Coordinator, BC Lung Association

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are NOT approved by Health Canada for sale or use in Canada. The safety, efficacy and quality of e-cigarettes are still unknown.

What is an electronic cigarette?

Electronic cigarettes (aka. vapour- or e- cigarettes) produce a vapour that resembles smoke and a glow that resembles the tip of a cigarette. They consist of a battery-powered delivery system that vapourizes and delivers a liquid chemical mixture that may be composed of various amounts of nicotine, propylene glycol, and other chemicals.

A typical electronic cigarette consists of three components:

  • A cartridge containing nicotine, water, and flavouring in a base of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, or polyethylene glycol 400 (Note: not all cartridges or solutions contain nicotine);
  • An atomizer containing a heating element which turns the liquid nicotine into a vapour; and
  • A battery to power the atomizer and the indicator light that glows like a lit cigarette when inhaled.

Are E-Cigarettes legal for use in Canada?

While e-cigarettes are marketed as a smoking cessation aid or tobacco replacement, they are not approved for use in Canada.

In March 2009, Health Canada issued an Advisory to Canadians NOT to use e-cigarettes as these products may pose health risks and have not been fully evaluated for safety, quality and efficacy by Health Canada.

Health Canada also issued a notice to stakeholders indicating that all electronic products intended to administer inhaled doses of nicotine are considered new drugs and as such fall under the Food and Drugs Act. 

However, the Notice issued by Health Canada only applies to e-cigarettes “intended” to deliver nicotine, which has created a regulatory grey zone that has been widely exploited.

E-cigarettes that do not make any health claim and do not contain nicotine may legally be sold in Canada.

Thus, many vendors are openly selling the device with nicotine-free cartridges or with cartridges claiming to be nicotine-free. (Note: according to the article below written by the Non-Smokers Rights Association - some vendors are selling cartridges and e-liquid containing nicotine under the table or are referring customers elsewhere to obtain nicotine).

Are E-Cigarettes safe for use?

At present there is insufficient data to evaluate the health risks to users from short- or long-term use of e-cigarettes, leading many researchers to call for further research to be done as soon as possible.

While e-cigarettes may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and as an aid to quitting smoking, these products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction.

Nicotine is a highly addictive and toxic substance, and the inhalation of propylene glycol is a known irritant.

More information:

The Canadian Lung Association is currently updating their Position Statement (pending) based on current scientific evidence and recommendations from the World Health Organization, Health Canada, and the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. The BC Healthy Living Alliance has also developed a position statement.

View this innovative website with cautionary tales about e-cigarettes.

Read more documents written by the Non-Smokers Rights Association: The Buzz on E-Cigarettes, Position Statement and E-cigarettes: Understand the Potential Risks & Benefits Oct 2013.

Check out this video which questions whether E-Cigarettes really are safer.

View this excellent article on the pros and cons of e-cigarettes by two leading experts in the U.S.  A great debate.