A new survey shows Canadian youth are vaping 30 times a day, and that vaping flavours are a big reason why they continue the habit.
The survey showed youth start vaping before they turn 16, and 59 per cent have tried to quit multiple times without success. Many have gone on to smoking after vaping.
The survey included 1,800 youth, age 16 to 24, who vaped at least once a week in the past three months.
Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health, said the survey shows that many youth cut back to an average of 19 vaping episodes per day during the pandemic, but he said 19 times a day is still “unbelievable.”
“Whether it’s 19 or 30 vapes a day, that’s plenty to sustain an addiction,” said Hagen, an Alberta anti-tobacco advocate.
“The fact that the overall rate of use is not down is disturbing, especially when we have 400,000 school-age youth in Canada using vaping products, which is precisely 400,000 too many, and those are kids in grades 6 to 12 across Canada.”
The survey, conducted by the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia, showed nine in 10 of young people cite flavours as an important reason for why they started vaping, and 90 per cent say it is an important factor for continuing to vape.
Two-thirds, or 66 per cent, use the highest concentrations of nicotine available in Canada.
“The main conclusion of this report is Canadian youth are vaping in large number, and they are being driven to vaping products by the promotion of flavours and high-nicotine content in vaping products,” Hagen said.
Nova Scotia has already banned flavoured vape products and Prince Edward Island is in the process of banning them.
Earlier this year, Alberta passed legislation that bans anyone under 18 years of age from using e-cigarettes. It does not restrict flavours for e-cigarettes, but the bill proposes cabinet be allowed to make such restrictions.
“They did get the bill through in the middle of a pandemic. I think the intentions were good. Now it’s follow through,” Hagen said.
“Unfortunately, COVID has been a distraction for everyone. But we encourage governments to not lose sight of another important epidemic, and that is the youth vaping epidemic.”
He said smoking has been at an all-time low among youth. Now, that progress is threatened as they get hooked on nicotine through vaping, and progress to tobacco.
“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. It’s the reason why we have 48,000 Canadians dying from tobacco use each year, which is more than all substances combined. It’s the No. 1 preventable cause of premature death, disability and disease in Canada,” Hagen said.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdani, director of health initiatives at the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and the lead researcher for the study, said the time to act is now.
“A number of policy measures need to be implemented nationwide to strongly address the youth vaping crisis. This includes the federal government implementation of a robust set of policies, including a comprehensive flavour ban, excise tax and capping nicotine levels.
“Provinces should also utilize taxation and raise the minimum purchase age to 21 (for both smoking and vaping),” said Al-Hamdani in a statement.