Health Canada Warns of Potential Risk with Vaping Products
OTTAWA -- Health Canada is advising Canadians who use vaping products to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and to seek medical attention promptly if they have concerns about their health.
In the wake of the recent cases of severe pulmonary illness and a number of deaths being associated with the use of vaping products in the United States, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provided national guidance to the provinces and territories on identifying cases in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada alerted provincial and territorial public health officials and asked them to report probable and confirmed cases of severe pulmonary illness in their jurisdictions based on the Canadian working case definition.
Following the first confirmed case in Quebec in September, the Province of New Brunswick has now notified the Public Health Agency of Canada of two probable cases of severe pulmonary illness related to the use of vaping products. Canada now has one confirmed and two probable cases of severe vaping-related pulmonary illness. The incident report out of the Middlesex-London Health Unit in Ontario remains classified as an "incident under investigation" until the investigation is complete and officially reported to the national level by the Province of Ontario.
Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada today launched a new webpage to keep Canadians informed about Canadian cases of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping. The latest numbers of confirmed or probable cases of severe vaping-related pulmonary illness in Canada will be posted and updated weekly or as required.
On August 30, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) released a statement on their ongoing investigation into the cause of the illnesses. The US CDC continues to provide regular updates on the investigations related to these illnesses. The source of all illnesses in the U.S. remains unclear; however, the US CDC reports that chemical exposure is the likely cause. Many patients have reported vaping tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or nicotine-containing products. However, at this time, no consistent product, substance or additive has been identified in all cases.
The Government of Canada continues to monitor all available data sources and surveillance systems for signals to identify incidents of severe pulmonary illness in Canada that could be related to vaping and refer these to the appropriate province or territory for investigation. The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health have convened a federal, provincial and territorial task group in order to develop a uniform approach to identifying and reporting cases. The Task Group is working collaboratively to develop technical documents (for example, it created the Canadian case definition); data collection tools; and information-sharing processes. In addition, Health Canada has obtained samples of vaping products for testing purposes.
It is important for Canadians to know that vaping does have health risks and that the potential short and long-term effects of vaping remain unknown. Non-smokers, people who are pregnant and young people should not vape.
The Government of Canada also remains deeply concerned by the increase in vaping reported among Canadian youth. Health Canada has taken a number of steps to address the rise of vaping in Canada and, in particular, the risk that it poses to youth, such as consulting on additional regulatory measures targeting promotion to youth, packaging and flavours, as well as compliance and enforcement and public awareness and youth education.
Canadians are reminded that the purchase of vaping products outside the legal market are not subject to any controls or oversight and may pose additional risks to health and safety.
Health care professionals are reminded to always ask patients, as part of their general history, whether they use drugs from any source, whether legal or illegal. When patients present with respiratory symptoms, especially if the cause is unclear, health care professionals should ask about the use of vaping products, including electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) products, such as devices, liquids, refill pods and/or cartridges.
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product, such as an
e-cigarette. Vaping doesn't require burning the way cigarette smoking does. The device heats a liquid into a vapour, which then turns into an aerosol. This vapour can contain substances such as nicotine and flavourings.
Vaping devices are usually battery-powered. They may come with removable parts. Vaping products have many names, including:
- vape pens
- tank systems
- electronic cigarettes / e-cigarettes
- electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)
They may also be known by various brand names. More information about vaping, including the health risks, is available on Health Canada's website.
Cannabis can be consumed in different ways, including by vaporizing and vaping (breathing in dried cannabis or liquid cannabis vapors through a vaporizer or vaping device). Illegal cannabis, including cannabis vaping devices that are sold on the illegal market, are not quality-controlled and may be contaminated. Cannabis use has risks, some of which remain unknown, and can have short- and long-term harms to your health, including dependence.
What you should do
- If you are concerned about the health risks related to vaping, consider not using vaping products.
- If you use vaping products, avoid any products from illegal or unregulated sources. Products obtained from the illegal market are not subject to any controls or oversight and may pose additional risks to your health and safety.
- If you use vaping products, or have used vaping products in the past, monitor yourself for symptoms of pulmonary illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health. Be sure to indicate to your health care professional that you currently vape, or have in the past, and what you were vaping.
- Do not modify vaping products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
- For those who have developed a dependence on nicotine, quitting can be difficult. Effective therapies are available to Canadians who smoke, including medication or approved nicotine replacement therapies such as gums, patches and lozenges.
- Health Canada has information on how to quit smoking and encourages those trying to quit to call 1-866-366-3667 toll-free to speak with a quit coach.
- Report any adverse reactions or incidents related to vaping products to Health Canada.
- Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and product recalls.