Vaping and Hookah

Last revised: April 10, 2024

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Vaping is when someone inhales and exhales (puffs) vapour from a battery-operated device. These battery-operated devices (also known as vapes) heat a liquid solution (for example e-liquid or e-juice) which creates an aerosol that is inhaled. This vapour is inhaled through the mouth and into the lungs. E-liquids are available in different flavours mixed in a glycerol and propylene glycol solution that contain different levels of nicotine. 

Vaping may be less harmful than cigarettes, but less harmful doesn’t mean free of harm or safe! If you are concerned about your health after using a vaping product, contact your health care provider or visit our webpage for Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources.

Health Effects

Vaping can expose you to harmful chemicals and metals. Some chemicals found in vaping liquid, like vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, are safe for use in products like cosmetics but the long-term safety of inhaling these substances is unknown.

Most vaping products contain nicotine. Anyone can develop a physical dependence to nicotine. This means the body gets used to the amount of nicotine and can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. In teens, vaping nicotine can:

  • Affect brain development, learning, memory, attention, concentration, and behaviour
  • Worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Lead to prolonged use or a transition to cigarettes (which contain tobacco) and associated with negative health impacts.
Research on vaping is emerging. This means the long-term health impacts are still unknown. Short-term health effects may include mouth or throat irritation, cough, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, vomiting and or diarrhea.

Drinking e-liquid nicotine can result in nicotine poisoning and even death, especially with young children and pets. If you think someone has been exposed to toxic amounts of nicotine, please call Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800- 268-9017.

Visit the Ontario website for more information on the risks of vaping.
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Lower Risk Use

  • Read and follow safety instructions provided with e-cigarettes and e-juice.
  • Avoid using any vaping products from illegal or unregulated sources. These products are not subject to controls or oversight with respect to safety or quality.
  • Do not modify vaping products or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • Choose products with child-resistant packaging and store out of reach of children to minimize the risk of nicotine poisoning.
  • Only vape in outdoor spaces where it is permitted and to be cautious about using vaping products around others due to the potential harms of second-hand exposure.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of lung (pulmonary) illness such as cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Seek medical attention right away 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. 

For more information on lower risk nicotine use, view our tips to lower your risk when using nicotine factsheet

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Vaping Products and Quitting Smoking

No vapour product to treat nicotine dependence has been approved by Health Canada. The evidence around using vapour products to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes is limited. People who are interested in reducing or quitting smoking can discuss their quit goals with a healthcare professional. Find out where and how to access help in the community by visiting our webpage for Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources.
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The law and vaping

Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, it is against the law to:

  • Sell or supply tobacco and vapour products to anyone under the age of 19. The fine for supplying a vapour product is $490.
  • Use a fake ID to purchase tobacco or vapour products.
  • Vape or hold an activated e-cigarette in enclosed public places and workplaces and in other areas where tobacco smoking is already banned, including public and private schools and public areas within 20 meters of school grounds, playgrounds, or the grounds of community recreational facilities. The fine for vaping in a prohibited area is $305.

For information on the making, sale, labelling and promotion of vaping products in Canada, visit the federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act

For information visit:

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Where to go for Help

If you or a friend need help reducing or quitting, talk to someone you trust. This could be a family member, teacher, coach or guidance/addictions counsellor. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, seek help from:

  • Your health care provider
  • A Family Health Team (FHT) or Community Health Centre (CHC) within your catchment area
  • Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000

For more information on resources and services, visit our Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources webpage.
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The hookah, also known as a water-pipe or shisha, is a device used to smoke tobacco product and herbal product that is specially made with molasses and flavouring. 

Health effects of hookah

Hookah smoking carries many health risks and is gaining popularity among young adults due to the variety of flavoured product and the misperception that it is a "healthier" alternative to cigarette smoking. All hookah smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals and toxins, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and tar.

  • It can be addictive. The tobacco used in a hookah contains nicotine, the same highly addictive drug found in cigarettes.
  • Chemicals are absorbed into your body. The smoke from a hookah pipe contains chemicals and toxins including carbon monoxide, carcinogens, heavy metals and tar. The water in a hookah pipe does not act as a filter.
  • Hookah smoking is associated with a number of poor health outcomes including lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight, carbon monoxide poisoning, adverse cardiac events and periodontal disease. 
  • You can catch an infectious disease. There is a risk of contracting viruses and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, herpes, influenza, and oral disease from sharing the hose or mouthpiece of a hookah pipe. The use of a disposable tip does not prevent the transmission of contagious diseases.
  • It produces second-hand smoke. A recent study conducted by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit showed that the air quality in hookah bars tested in Toronto was unhealthy and potentially hazardous.

The law and hookah

Smoking shisha, whether there's tobacco or not, is illegal on all City of Ottawa properties (indoor and outdoor) and in all enclosed workplaces or public places in Ottawa. Hookah bars/cafés are not legal, and people may be charged for smoking waterpipes inside an illegal hookah bars/cafés. See the Smoking and Vaping By-Law (City of Ottawa) for more information.

For more information on resources and services, visit our Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources webpage.
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