09/28/2016 02:36 EDT | Updated 09/28/2016 02:36 EDT

Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Gianluca Rasile via Getty Images
Detail of the electronic cigarette with its vapor similar to traditional cigarette smoke.


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Written by Alexis Dobranowski, Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

I walked through a cloud of tutti-frutti smelling smoke the other day, and it got me wondering about e-cigarettes. Are they safe? Are the bad for you? Why do they smell like fruit?

So, I spoke with Leslie Gibson, occupational therapist and member of Sunnybrook's Smoking Cessation Committee, to answer some common questions about e-cigarettes.

What is an e-cigarette?

An e-cigarette is an electronic device that has a fluid-filled cartridge and a battery. When you puff on the e-cigarette, a sensor goes off and the fluid is heated, which produces a vapour that is inhaled like a cigarette and then exhaled.

There are lots of types and so they can look different.

Are e-cigarettes legal?

In 2009, a Health Canada Advisory discouraged the use of e-cigarettes as they may pose health risks and haven't been fully evaluated for safety and quality. In addition, Health Canada said e-cigarettes cannot be marketed as having any health benefits.

In May 2016, Bill 45 was passed in Ontario, which outlines where you cannot use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are now viewed like regular cigarettes -- you can't use them anywhere you can't smoke cigarettes. So, you cannot use e-cigarettes in buildings, on patios, at baseball diamonds, parks, or anywhere on hospital property.

People over age 19 can buy these products in Canada-- but cartridges containing nicotine are not legal in Canada.

What are your concerns about e-cigarettes?

My concerns are the common concerns that are shared among health-professionals when it comes to e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have been sort of glamorized as smoking's cool cousin. And the flavours (hence the fruity smell sometimes) seem to appeal to teens. This goes against all the gains made with the tobacco industry in not marketing to teens and the province's move toward having a "smoke-free" environment.

E-cigarettes have not been around long enough for researchers to study the long-term effects. The ingredients of the cartridges are not regulated - so how do we know exactly what is in it? What are you breathing in? Who made it? Who made the battery device and how - is that safe?

So what's the bottom line?

While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than regular cigarettes, more research needs to be done to even properly compare the use of e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes. The bottom line is: Don't reach to either.

What about using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking regular cigarettes?

Research needs to be done to see if e-cigarettes are an effective way to help people quit smoking. If you are trying to quit, there are things you can do that have been proven through research as helpful. Use nicotine replacement therapies. These have been studied and are regulated. Ask your health care team about smoking cessation tools like nicotine gum, lozenges or the patch, vaporizers or inhalers.

If you want to quit smoking, speak to your health-care team, or check out some online resources at or call the Smoker's Helpline at 1-877-513-5333.

For more tips on healthy living from Sunnybrook experts, visit

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