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EDITORIAL: The vape debate

Teens who try vaping say they think it’s cool. But research shows teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke later on.
Teens who try vaping say they think it’s cool. But research shows teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke later on.

What comes in flavours like cotton candy, chocolate and grape, is wrapped in colourful casing and is growing in popularity amongst teenagers?

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Teens who try vaping say they think it’s cool. But research shows teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke later on.

Electronic cigarette use. It’s on the rise, with adolescents already more likely to vape than to smoke an old-fashioned paper-wrapped tobacco stick.

E-cigarettes have a cartridge filled with e-juice that is heated on a battery-run element. The product may or may not contain nicotine, and just because the label claims it’s nicotine-free doesn’t mean it’s true.

Far from the smoking cessation product it claims to be, vaping is turning into a training ground for youngsters easing into the smoking habit. With e-juice flavours like citrus pop or “I love donuts,” electronic cigarette sellers are clearly hoping to expand their product beyond the 30-year smoking veteran hoping to trade his Export As for something a little less deadly.

In fact, there are no independent studies that prove switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes helps smokers quit and there is not much research yet about the health benefits or risks associated with sucking back on an e-cigarette.

What we do have research to prove, however, is that teens are embracing the habit in growing numbers.

A Canadian study involving 2,300 Grade 9 students in Ontario found 10 per cent of them had used e-cigarettes. Another report in British Columbia showed 21 per cent of boys and 15 per cent of girls in Grade 9 have given vaping a try.

The study’s author, Elizabeth Saewyc from the University of British Columbia says the reason is simple: “It’s new, it’s electronic, it’s cool.”

Even if you’re sold on the propaganda that vaping is better than smoking, two American studies have demonstrated youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke in the future.

While there is no federal legislation covering vaping in Canada, some provinces, including those in Atlantic Canada, are trying to curb the practice before too many more young people become addicted.

Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to restrict e-cigarettes, bringing in legislation in May 2015 treating them the same way as tobacco products. Minors can’t buy them and they must be kept out of view. Prince Edward Island followed suit a month later. Newfoundland and Labrador passed a similar bill, which will come into effect July 1, 2017. And New Brunswick’s Smoke-Free Places  Act has included e-cigarettes since July of last year.

Health Canada is advising Canadians – particularly youth — against using these products, but the federal government could go a step farther.

Instead of letting the provinces deal with e-cigarettes in piecemeal legislation, Ottawa could regulate the devices so that they are only available to adults who want to quit smoking.

Especially since that’s who they are purportedly for, anyway.

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