Information about vaping of nicotine

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Nicotine and cannabis are the two most common substances that can be 'vaped'. This document will focus on vaping of nicotine and the health effects that you should consider in your decisions about vaping.

Key points

  • Nicotine is a highly addictive substance.
  • Many users are not aware of how much nicotine they are using when vaping.
  • Nicotine is a stimulant and can cause difficulties with sleep, appetite and anxiety.
  • If you have existing lung disease, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, you should avoid using any inhaled substances.

What is vaping?

Vaping devices heat liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs, and then gets into the bloodstream where it affects different parts of the body. There are a variety of different brands and types of vape devices. Some are single use, while others require the user to purchase ‘pods’ or cartridges of nicotine liquid. These are called e-liquids. E-liquids are made to have fruit, mint/menthol and candy or dessert flavours, which often results in someone using them much more often that they would smoke a tobacco cigarette.

Why do teens vape?

The most common reasons teens report vaping nicotine are:

  • because they enjoy it
  • because they wanted to try it
  • to reduce stress

What is known about the effects of vaping in teens?

One pre-filled nicotine cartridge can contain the same amount of nicotine as one to two packs of cigarettes.

Risks related to nicotine

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Its use has been shown to impact brain development, and vaping with nicotine can lead to dependence. Nicotine dependence includes needing to use more nicotine over time to experience the same effects and feeling unwell when you do not use nicotine. Nicotine can also affect the body in other ways:

  • For teens with existing physical and/or mental illnesses, vaping nicotine can worsen symptoms and potentially interact with medications used to treat illness.
  • Nicotine causes the heart rate to speed up and can increase blood pressure.
  • In large amounts, nicotine can cause tremors, difficulty with sleeping and increase in anxiety.

Risks related to the device (vape pen/e-cigarette)

There are reports of the heating devices malfunctioning, resulting in burns if the devices are kept in a pocket. There are also reports of the devices exploding causing burns and other facial injuries.

If you share your vape or use someone else’s, this increases the risk of transmitting (or passing on) infections such as COVID-19 or other infections that are spread by droplets.

Risks related to vaping liquids

The ingredients typically found in vaping liquids include glycerol, flavours, propylene glycol and varying levels of nicotine. The long-term safety of inhaling these substances in vaping products is unknown and is being studied.

What to do if you are vaping nicotine and want to stop

If you are experiencing unwanted effects on your health from vaping nicotine, or you want to stop vaping to prevent health problems, there are ways to get help to stop.

Cutting back on how often you are vaping can be a first step. Getting rid of your vape pen and/or not buying new cartridges can make it easier not to vape. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a safe way for teens to quit nicotine use. This can be bought at pharmacies in Ontario without a prescription. Note that different provinces have different coverage for NRT. The Lung Health Foundation has an app called Quash that can give you ideas about how to successfully quit.

For additional support, speak to your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Last updated: May 18th 2023