A new survey of Canadian teenagers suggests that vaping is on the rise–big time.
The biggest takeaway from the study–published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics: The number of Canadian young people surveyed who said they had ever tried vaping rose to 40.6 per cent in 2019 from 29.3 per cent in 2017.
“That is stunning, and there needs to be pressing action by federal and provincial governments to reduce youth vaping through a series of measures,” Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, told CBC News’ Adam Miller.
The study looked into the habits of more than 12,000 Canadians aged 16 to 19, done in three groups between 2017 and 2019.
It found that the number of those who reported vaping in the previous month had more than doubled to 17.8 per cent from 8.4 per cent in 2017.
Those who said they had vaped in the past week rose to 12.3 per cent in 2019 from 5.2 per cent in 2017.
Those who reported using e-cigarettes more than 20 times in the previous month jumped to 5.7 per cent from 1.8 per cent.
And guess what?
David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who led the study of the young Canadians, also looked at rates of vaping in the U.S. and U.K.
He found similar trends among American — but not British — young people.
Hammond told Miller that is largely because the European Union has put a cap on the amount of nicotine allowed in e-cigarettes–at 20 milligrams per millilitre–while Canada and the U.S. have not.
According to Health Canada, the maximum amount of nicotine content currently allowed in e-cigarettes in Canada is more than triple that of the EU, at 66 milligrams per millilitre.
Last December Health Canada said it was preparing to place stricter limits on advertising and make health warnings on vaping products mandatory but said it wasn’t ready to go as far as health advocates wanted by further restricting flavoured vape products known to appeal to younger users.
In January, the Canadian Medical Association termed Health Canada’s proposals “not sufficient,” saying proposed regulations provide the vaping industry with “too much latitude in their promotion activities.”
The CMA noted that vaping advertising has succeeded in attracting more and more youth to vaping, even when the advertising was not directed at them.
Health Canada’s proposals came in response to months of increasing pressure to crack down on the vaping industry, which heavily promotes its products in stores and other public places.
As well, ads and promotions from vaping companies are widely used across many social media platforms.
Asked about the latest survey, Health Canada said in a statement to CBC News it is “concerned about the rapid rise in youth vaping” and that the government has taken steps to address the issue including investments in public education, “intensified enforcement” of legislation and additional regulations.
WITH FILES FROM CBC News (Adam Miller, Catherine Cullen)