Learn about vaping products, including e-cigarettes, mods, and vape pens. Discover how they work, types of liquids used, and potential risks. Get informed on vaping.

Vaping: A Safer Alternative to Smoking? A Closer Look at the Science and Regulations

Vaping products, also known as "vapes" or "e-cigarettes", are devices that heat a substance to produce an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. Unlike traditional cigarettes, vaping products do not require burning, but rather use a battery-powered heating element to heat a liquid solution into an aerosol, often referred to as "vapor" (though this is a misnomer as it is not water vapor).

Vaping devices come in various forms, including mods, pod-mods, vape pods, vapes, disposables, sub-ohms, vape pens, e-hookahs, tank systems, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). These devices typically consist of a battery, mouthpiece, heating element, and a chamber, such as a tank or reservoir, to contain the liquid solution. Some devices may also have a disposable cartridge, known as a pod, that is pre-filled with liquid solution.

There are two types of vaping devices: open and closed systems. In open systems, the user manually fills the tank or pod with liquid solution, while in closed systems, the device uses a disposable cartridge or pod that is pre-filled with liquid solution and discarded after use, or a single-use disposable device that is thrown away after it runs out of liquid solution or battery charge.

Vaping liquids, also known as e-liquid, nic juice, e-juice, or vape juice, are typically flavored and contain nicotine. They are made by dissolving nicotine and/or flavoring ingredients in a liquid mixture, which usually consists of propylene glycol and/or glycerol (vegetable glycerin) and other chemicals. The number of chemical ingredients in vaping liquids can vary, with researchers detecting an average of 22 chemicals and approximately nine flavoring chemicals in Canadian vaping products between 2017-2019. Additional chemicals can also be formed when vaping liquids are heated during the aerosolization process or come into contact with parts of the vaping device, such as the coil.

The level of nicotine in vaping liquids can vary widely. Prior to July 2021, nicotine strengths in vaping substances in Canada ranged from 0 to over 60 mg/ml. However, since July 2021, the Nicotine Concentration in Vaping Products Regulations have established a maximum concentration of 20 mg/mL for vaping products manufactured in or imported into Canada, resulting in legal vaping substances containing 0 to 20 mg/ml of nicotine.

There are two forms of nicotine commonly used in vaping liquids: freebase nicotine and nicotine salts. Freebase nicotine is nicotine that has been dissolved in a liquid mixture, typically propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, and other chemicals. It can be used in refill liquids and cartridges for closed systems. Nicotine salts, on the other hand, are nicotine that has been dissolved in a liquid mixture that is chemically adjusted to be weakly acidic. These liquids also contain propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, as well as flavoring and other chemicals, and can be used in refill liquids and cartridges for closed systems.
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