The debate over what to do about the rise in Canadian teens sucking nicotine-laced vapours into their lungs has reached a predictable impasse.
On the one hand, you have health experts who say governments need to respond to the uptake in youth vaping with stricter enforcement of laws on how products are advertised and packaged, and by banning flavours designed to appeal to young people.
On the other hand, you’ve got industry spokespeople arguing that vaping reduces the health risks related to nicotine addiction, and that restrictive laws could stop tobacco smokers from using a legitimate harm-reduction tool.
Both sides have a point.
Teen vaping rates have doubled since Canada legalized and regulated e-cigarettes last year, according to research published in the British Medical Journal. One recent survey found nearly 40 per cent of 16- to 19-year-old Canadians have tried e-cigarettes, and nearly one in 10 said they vape weekly.
Another study, published this month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that young people are attracted to e-cigarettes because of the cutesy flavours – birthday cake, bubblegum, vanilla and other dessert-like confections.
E-cigarettes, for the uninitiated, are handheld electronic devices that mimic smoking by using heat to vapourize a flavoured liquid that contains nicotine salts, which is then pulled into the lungs. They are as addictive as tobacco cigarettes but, because they don’t involve the combustion of tobacco leaf, they produce far fewer dangerous compounds.
And therein lies the other side of the story: Vaping is a legitimate harm-reduction tool for people who are already addicted to nicotine. An oft-cited British study found that it is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking tobacco. Health Canada says e-cigarettes are a safer choice than regular cigarettes.
E-cigarette manufacturers argue they need to be able to offer attractively flavoured liquids to lure adult smokers away from cigarettes.
Globe and Mail Editorial – November 17, 2019.