Electronic cigarettes are a hot topic in Canada, with strong voices arguing both for and against. Here are the facts about their current legal status and known health effects.

Are e-cigarettes legal for use in Canada?

While e-cigarettes are marketed as a quit smoking aid, they are not approved or regulated for this 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.

Read the BC government's new Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act and Regulations related to the sale, display, promotion and use of vapour products/electronic e-cigarettes?