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 illnesses and a number of deaths reportedly linked to 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 of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping or e-cigarette use in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada alerted provincial and territorial public health officials and asked them to report probable and confirmed cases in their jurisdictions.
The Province of Quebec has notified the Public Health Agency of Canada of a confirmed case of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping products. This is the first confirmed case in Canada. This follows the report out of the Middlesex-London Health Unit in Ontario of another possible case. At this time, the Middlesex–London incident is not considered confirmed as it is still under investigation and has not been officially reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada by the Province of Ontario.
Provincial and territorial health authorities are responsible for investigating possible cases. Confirmed or probable cases will be determined based on the national case definition, which was adapted for the Canadian context from the criteria set out by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC).
On August 30, the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and the 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 in Canada and will take action, as appropriate. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health have convened a federal, provincial and territorial task group on severe pulmonary illness related to vaping to develop a uniform approach to identifying and reporting cases. The Task Group is working collaboratively to develop technical documents such as a 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 risks and the potential long-term effects of vaping remain unknown. Non-smokers, people who are pregnant and young people should not vape.
While no clear link has been made between any specific type or brand of a vaping product and the cases of severe pulmonary illness, the Government of Canada remains deeply concerned by the increase in vaping reported among Canadian youth. Health Canada has taken a number of steps in recent months 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 may create additional risk as these products are unregulated and potentially unsafe, and thereby pose a risk 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 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 products that are sold on the illegal market, are not quality-controlled and may be contaminated.
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, 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.