For those of you unfamiliar with electronic cigarettes, allow us to briefly describe them in general terms.
An electronic cigarette is essentially a battery housed inside a casing. A removable heating coil (called an atomizer) screws onto the battery. A flavoured liquid (commonly referred to as e-juice or e-liquid) reaches the atomizer from a reservoir atop the atomizer. In most cases, the liquid contains nicotine. When activated, the atomizer vapourizes the liquid. This creates the vapour – which looks like smoke, but is not smoke. A user inhales the vapour. In this way, an e-cigarette functions as a safer, smoke-free consumer alternative to smoking – by providing an attractive, pleasurable experience to the consumer without the tobacco, tar, filth, disease and death that smoking traditional cigarettes brings.
To use a computing analogy: the battery and atomizer are the ‘hardware’ – and e-juice is the ‘software’ that makes the hardware useful.
Electronic cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes – from cigarette-shaped, to tubes, boxes and more. Atomizers vary as well – from simple ‘dripping’ units to cartomizers, clearomizers and tanks with a larger capacity for e-juice. An endless variety of mouthpieces for the atomizer (known as drip tips) are also available. Made of glass, metal, acrylic etc, they range from the simple to ornate. But at their heart, electronic cigarettes are all essentially the same thing: a battery which powers an atomizer in order to vapourize e-juice.
We invite you to watch this recent 6-minute video illustrating the generational differences so far between e-cigarettes – from the smallest, most affordable models to the large, modern devices offering more in the way of features.
E-juice traditionally contains only four ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine, and flavouring.
PG and VG are found in numerous foods and beverages; they are used to create theatrical fog; PG is even used in some asthma inhalers to carry the contents to the user’s lungs. Inhalation studies on vapourized PG go back as far as the 1940s, revealing no serious concerns. Likewise, studies on the inhalation of vapourized VG have revealed no serious concerns.
As for nicotine, it too has been studied for decades – and it has long been known that at the levels commonly used by smokers and e-cigarette users, the nicotine itself offers risk on a par with typical caffeine consumption (in other words, virtually none).
Despite the countless ways that PG is safely used – which includes inhalation uses – as part of its deceptive 2009 “advisory” (i.e. attack) on e-cigarettes, Health Canada disingenuously stated that:
“…the inhalation of propylene glycol is a known irritant.”
What does this mean exactly? Precious little. Since PG and VG are both humectants – that is, they draw moisture to themselves – someone who frequently vapes will typically drink more water to avoid “irritation” (i.e. mild dehydration). Given the known, significant, lethal dangers of cigarette smoking, a mild risk of dehydration from vaping – easily remedied by drinking more water – is hardly a serious concern.
To emphasize how disingenuous Health Canada’s “warning” on the PG in e-juice really is, consider the following statement – which is consistent with PG inhalation studies going back to the 1940s, and was present here on their website from 2008 until quite recently:
“…there are no endpoints of concern for oral, dermal, or inhalation exposure to propylene glycol.”
Contrary to what one might think, this information was not removed from Health Canada’s website due to any dispute over its accuracy. In fact, it is still available from Health Canada in PDF format – albeit only upon request (here) which is far less convenient. Evidently Health Canada is not eager to make it too easy for Canadians to see their hypocrisy on PG, or on e-cigarettes in general. We have since requested the document and made it available here (right-click and Save Target As for offline viewing).
To date, there is simply no credible or conclusive scientific evidence to show that inhaling e-juice vapourized by an e-cigarette is any riskier to a person than typical caffeine consumption.
Yet mounds of ongoing, real-life observational evidence in millions of e-cigarette users worldwide over the last five years or so strongly indicates that the risks are, again, on a par with typical caffeine use – so negligible as to be unworthy of concern, especially when compared to smoking.
E-juice with nicotine (the liquid that is vapourized by an e-cigarette) is available in hundreds of flavours, if not thousands.
This wide variety of available flavours is actually one of the best things about electronic cigarettes. Many smokers believe that if they switch to vaping, they will want or need that “real cigarette” taste – but quickly discover that this is not the case. With a new world of flavours available to them, they soon realize that by comparison, cigarette smoke tastes disgusting.
In short: flavours discourage people from wanting to return to smoking. They’re a deterrent to smoking – not a gateway to it. So flavours are good.
As with foods, different people like different flavours – tastes vary. For example:
Joe may not like the taste of Liquid A or Liquid B; were that all that was available, he might not switch from smoking to vaping. Yet Joe may love the taste of Liquid C, and successfully make the switch.
Jane may find 18 mg/mL too strong a nicotine strength, but 12 mg/mL satisfying. Conversely, Sally may find 12 mg/mL too weak – but 21 mg/mL suitable for her needs.
Mike may be content with a smaller cigarette-shaped battery – but Mary may need higher battery life, or variable voltage, to satisfy her. Mike may want or need his device to look like a cigarette – but Mary may prefer the reverse, choosing a pink box-shaped device that looks nothing like a cigarette.
We trust the point is clear. Vaping is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Different people will want or need different flavours, different nicotine strengths, and even different hardware. You can see how it’s both desirable and essential for people to have choice.
E-juice with nicotine is traditionally sold in bottles made of plastic or glass – with 30 mL bottles being one of the most commonly purchased sizes. When used as intended, this product is not demonstrably any more harmful than common caffeine consumption.
But what does “use as intended” mean in this case? What do consumers need to know about the relative safety of the product – and the relative dangers? What responsibilities do the makers and sellers have to consumers?
With this in mind, let’s examine what e-cigarettes with nicotine actually are (and aren’t) in the eyes of the law. From there, we’ll go on to examine what Canadian law says about legally compliant labeling for e-juice with nicotine. This topic will be split into three parts, with a fourth to provide some much-needed context:
This information is provided by WhatDoesTheLawSay.ca