Vaping is inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. Although vaping is not a new phenomenon, there has been a recent rise in usage which has resulted in much debate and conflicting advice amongst regulatory bodies and health care providers.
Vaping is often used as an alternative to smoking. The process involves applying heat to a liquid that generates a vapor the user inhales. The electronic cigarette liquid takes many forms. The majority of the solution is made of up of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine. While electronic cigarettes do not use tobacco, many do contain nicotine in varying doses. Because this solution is generally tasteless, flavorings are often added.
There is popular opinion that electronic cigarettes can be an effective smoking cessation aid. Unfortunately there is not enough research in this area to know if this is true in the long term.
Statistics have shown that primarily smokers and ex-smokers are using electronic cigarettes, however there are concerns that vaping may act as a gateway to smoking, particularly among young people. According to Public Health, about 20 percent of teens ages 15-19 have used electronic cigarettes.
In 2009, Health Canada advised that Canadians not use electronic smoking products as they may pose health risks. On January 1, 2016 it became illegal to sell or supply e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19. Recent news has indicated that Ontario is set to ban e-cigarette users from smoking or vaping anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited. The determination has been made that smoking, in whatever form, should have restrictions.
It is difficult as health care providers, when there is a lack of long term studies and no definitive guidelines, to make recommendations to our patients about vaping. While there is much documentation citing that vaping is completely harmless, there is also some research that shows there are some short term effects. The potential oral health effects of electronic cigarettes has received very little attention. Our hope and expectation is that over time, good long term clinical trials and studies into the oral health interactions will become available. Until that time, as dental care providers, we believe it is best to be cautious, particularly due to the direct contact of electronic cigarette vapor to the oral tissues.