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Published on Monday, June 12, 2023

Talk with loved ones about vaping risks

By Brooke Tomsett,

Tobacco Youth Advisor

 

Long gone are the days of smoke-filled restaurants, bars and workplaces.

The harms of smoking cigarettes and using other commercial tobacco products are well known for their damaging effects on the body –from strokes and heart attacks to COPD and various cancers.

Today’s teens have grown up in a time with the most control measures over these deadly and addictive products.

They have not seen magazine advertisements or TV commercials for these products. Tobacco companies are banned from sponsoring sporting and entertainment events. Cigarette and cigar brands are hidden from view due to a ban on “powerwalls” behind store counters. Most recently, new plain packaging regulations removed one of the last ways for these companies to market their brands.

We have seen smoking rates drop and level off.

But, there are new products that threaten to undo the work done and addict a whole new generation to nicotine.

Ask any student in secondary school if vaping is an issue affecting teens and they will likely respond that many of their peers are vaping.

While recent studies report that overall, most youth are not vaping all the time, many have tried the products at least once in the past year and many know students who can’t go too long without their vape.

The issue with the vapour from these products is that it is usually carrying very high amounts of nicotine.

The “pods” sold for use in electronic vapes are filled with a mixture of ingredients like vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, along with various flavour ingredients.

Before July 3, 2021, it was easy for people to get access to e-liquids with up to 59 or 57 mg/ml of nicotine – an amount in many pods found to be similar to a whole pack of cigarettes. After July 3, 2021, Canadian retailers must not sell e-liquids or “e-juice” with more than 20 mg/ml of nicotine.

But, for some teens, the changing legislation to control these products is coming too late.

Youth are naturally curious and vapes have been marketed as a much less harmful product than cigarettes. The fruity flavours and clouds of vapour have been tempting for those looking to try new things and experiment. These same youth have lived through a very stressful time during the pandemic and some vaping companies took advantage of this by marketing their products as a way to manage stress.

Repeated use of vaping products with nicotine takes over reward pathways and tricks the brain into relying on nicotine. When someone tries to stop smoking or vaping, they usually experience symptoms of withdrawal, such as irritability, headache, feeling tired, and changes in sleep, as well as nausea, coughing and more. Symptoms of anxiety are very similar to some withdrawal symptoms from nicotine and this can make quitting a challenge for teens. 

Parents, guardians and grandparents can support teens by having open conversations about these products and their risks. Family role models are important in supporting young people in making the best decisions for themselves.

If they are experiencing ongoing stress or mental health challenges, reach out and talk to them and connect them with services, if needed. If you smoke or vape yourself, quitting may be an important goal for you and would set a good example.

Call Public Health at 519-376-9420 or visit publichealthgreybruce.on.ca. We can support you in navigating available cessation services.

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