Health Canada is ramping up its efforts to educate youth of the potential health risks of vaping.
Spokeswoman Maryse Durette said the government agency has launched a multiphase campaign to tackle what it sees as a rapidly “increasing issue” among youth. The campaign features paid social media ads intended to persuade parents to talk to their teens about the health risks of vaping.
The most critical part of the campaign will begin next month, when it will feature both paid and hands-on learning events in schools, Durette said. Along with community anti-vape events targeting youth between the ages of 13 to 18, social media influencers across Canada will also be involved in the hope of reaching both parents and teens.
According to Health Canada, research is in its “early stages,” but officials say both unpublished and published international research is ringing alarms bells and pointing to a relapse into the history of cigarette use. The Canadian government recently legalized nicotine in flavour pods that are used for nicotine pens, resulting in the nicotine tasting and smelling fruity. Each singular flavoured pod contains 20 cigarettes’ worth of nicotine.
“The Minister of Health and Health Canada are deeply concerned about youth vaping in Canada, as increasing rates have been observed in the United States,” Durette wrote earlier this month. “The vaping market is rapidly evolving, with the regular introduction of new products into Canada. We are aware of both anecdotal information and unpublished research showing increases in the rate at which Canadian youth are trying and using vaping products.
“Health Canada has the authority to implement further measures to address the potential harms of vaping. The Department will not hesitate to propose further restrictions, should they prove necessary in light of the emerging data on youth vaping.”
“I see it all the time — my classmates will skip classes or take long bathroom breaks to go vape or ‘Juul,’ said Kaitlyn Myers, a student at Collingwood Collegiate Institute in Collingwood, Ont. “I have seen several people vomit because of vape, which many kids at school call ‘nicking out.’ It’s becoming a real issue in high schools and that’s not just mine. Almost everyone I know has tried a vape or owns one.”
At local high schools in the Waterloo Region, vaping is becoming a very concerning issue for faculty in relation to student health. Margaret Stirling, a guidance counsellor at Huron Heights Secondary School in Kitchener, Ont., says that, following a vaping suspension, students are talked to about making better choices. They are also told about the lack of research related to the topic and that researchers don’t know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
Smoking or vaping on any school property is now illegal. Vaping information kits for educators will be available in early February, said Ruth Cordukes, a public health nurse for the Region of Waterloo.
“I can’t predict the future, but I can say tobacco is a very different product than vape and highly addictive. There is a lot of awareness among the government body and that needs to continue to tackle this issue,” she said.