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E-cigarettes: What We Know & What We Don’t Know

Our recent blog post “What You Need to Know About E-Cigs” has inspired a lot of great comments, questions, and opinions. We’re pleased that a discussion is taking place.

We’ve done our best to respond in the comments of our previous blog, but soon realized it was worth a post of its own.

We know that there’s not a lot of unbiased scientific research available about e-cigarettes and their efficacy and safety to date.

We hear some people have had success with quitting smoking tobacco by switching to e-cigarettes. With tobacco use being the number one preventable cause of death in our province, we are huge supporters of Nova Scotians making the choice to quit smoking.

However, in the case of e-cigarettes, physicians and others in the broader health community remain cautious simply due to the lack of scientific evidence to demonstrate their safety and efficacy.

Physicians want evidence that these products are safe for their patients. We’re calling for more unbiased scientific research so we can make informed decisions on e-cigarettes.

Although some report that e-cigs have helped them quit smoking, there is limited research demonstrating that e-cigarettes are no more effective than other Health Canada approved forms of nicotine replacement. However, there are some additional unknowns with e-cigarettes because the delivery devices and the liquid cartridges they contain have not gone through the consumer safety testing processes required to be approved as a safe product for human consumption by Health Canada.

We also don’t know the effects of long-term use, the impact e-cigarettes will have on tobacco control, and the combined effects of the chemicals in the vapor.

Further research on the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes is needed. Until an e-cigarette product is deemed safe, effective, and of acceptable quality by Health Canada Nova Scotians should be aware of the potential risks with using these products.

Doctors Nova Scotia relies on experts, unbiased peer-reviewed information, and medical journals to inform the public.

Here’s a selection of resources about e-cigarettes from credible health organizations that can help you make informed decisions around e-cigarettes:

Are e-cigarettes with nicotine legal?

We’ve also heard the discussion around whether or not e-cigarettes with nicotine can be sold in Canada. The fact is e-cigarettes containing nicotine cannot be sold unless approved by Health Canada in the exact form it will be sold to Canadians. To date, no e-cigarette manufacturer’s product has received market authorization from Health Canada.

The confusion is around a reference to the ability to sell a nicotine inhaler of less than 4 milligrams. When this statement is taken out of the context of the entire Food and Drugs Act it can be perceived that certain e-cigarettes are legal. However, even e-cigarettes with less than 4 milligrams of nicotine need to be approved by Health Canada. To date, none have been approved for sale to Canadians.

The very fact that there is so much contradictory data and reports speaks to the need for us to slow down on this and gather the accurate evidence we need to make the most informed decisions. At the end of day we want to protect the health of Nova Scotians and are cautious to support any practice that could cause harm. More evidence is needed.

Thank you for having this discussion with us. Continue to educate yourselves on e-cigarettes as well as Health Canada approved stop smoking aids. After all, quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your health.