By Kirk Winter

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, wants all levels of government to think more carefully about the rules and regulations surrounding the sale and use of e-cigarettes and vaping paraphernalia in Canada.

Last month, Cunningham shared the troubling results of the first long-term report done on the specific issue of teenagers and vaping, and the results reported by the British Medical Journal should be of concern.

The British study showed a 74 percent increase in vaping among teens 16 to 19 years of age in the United Kingdom. Before the widespread availability of e-cigarettes and vaping paraphernalia, 8.4 percent of teens in the United Kingdom were users of these products. With much wider distribution of these products, that number has grown in 2018 to 14.6 percent of teens surveyed. The British Medical Journal reported, “that prior to 2017 there had been a steady decline in teen smoking numbers on a year-over-year basis for the last decade.” E-cigarettes and vaping were clearly changing that equation.

Despite what some manufacturers have claimed about e-cigarettes and vaping, the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products is unsafe for teens and young adults. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that can be harmful to adolescent brain development which continues into the early- to mid-20’s. E-cigarettes also contain other harmful products besides nicotine.

E-cigarettes with nicotine became legal in Canada with the introduction of Bill S-5 in May of 2018. The hope was that the product would be for adult smokers who were having problems quitting, not a gateway product to entice a whole new generation to smoke. The British Medical Journal suggested that, “teens that use e-cigarettes with nicotine may become addicted and are at a greater risk of becoming more traditional smokers.”

The Canadian Cancer Society is lobbying all levels of government to tighten access to e-cigarettes and vaping paraphernalia. The Society’s current suggestions for legislative changes include:

  • The minimum age to purchase all these products should be 21, as is already law in sixteen American states

  • There should be a prohibition of the sale on flavoured vaping products that the CCS sees as specifically targeted at teens

  • Alberta and Saskatchewan need to introduce some kind of provincial legislative framework regarding these products as the eight other provinces have already done

  • Ontario needs to ban vaping product advertising in stores as seven other provinces have already done

  • E-cigarettes and vaping paraphernalia should be governed by at least as tough a set of rules and restrictions as are in place to control the sale of cannabis

Anti-smoking advocates hope, with these changes in legislation, access to these products can be better controlled. The Canadian Cancer Society believes that the fewer teens who begin smoking of any kind will continue to reduce the number of new smokers and potential cancer victims not far down the road.