Editorial: Extinguish vaping

  • September 26, 2019

Unlike a year ago, when it signalled all aboard for marijuana, Ottawa needs to derail the toxic and addictive practice of vaping before it becomes a runaway train.

About the only good thing to say about vaping is that it delivers fewer poisons directly into the lungs than cigarettes. How many fewer? Nobody knows. The science is ongoing but medical experts agree on one point: vaping — inhaling a nicotine-laden, often flavoured, heated aerosol through an electronic device such as an e-cigarette — is profoundly harmful and especially dangerous for teens and young adults.

The president of the Canadian Medical Association has called for immediate steps to regulate the wild west vaping industry to curb “a public health crisis.” Health Canada has warned of lung and neurological risks associated with vaping. The U.S. Surgeon General has called for immediate action to address an epidemic and “to protect the health of our nation’s youngest people.”

Vaping is the known cause of eight deaths this year in the United States and more than 500 confirmed or probable cases of severe lung disease. No vaping-related deaths have been reported in Canada and there are only a handful of confirmed cases of lung disease attributed to e-cigarettes. But given vaping’s growing popularity and a rise in vaping-induced nicotine addiction among young people, it seems inevitable that the U.S. crisis soon will become a Canadian emergency.

E-cigarettes tend to be more addictive than regular cigarettes because vaping products often contain higher levels of nicotine. This is particularly harmful for users under 25, who become addicted faster than adults because of how a still-developing brain processes a jolt of nicotine. Studies also suggest nicotine harms young brains by retarding learning ability and attention span, and altering moods and impulse control.

Compounding the menace, the vaping industry markets fruit-flavoured products that, for many teens, make inhaling these vaporized toxins seem as benign as sipping a Slurpee. 

As we wrote when cannabis was legalized a year ago, society is made worse, not better, when dangerous substances become fashionable and commonplace. Unlike  government policy that has made cannabis easy to obtain — despite undisputed evidence of its health risks, particularly for young people — lawmakers should act urgently now to beef up existing regulations to cripple the vaping industry before it hits full stride.

 Based on the American experience, vaping seems destined to become more common than regular cigarette use among Canadian high school and university students. If it hasn’t happened already, teens will soon outnumber adult vaping addicts. And if nicotine addiction isn’t bad enough, concentrated cannabis oil for vaping devices is coming soon to Canada.

It all adds up to a pending health crisis that primarily targets teens and young adults. The government sidestepped the dangers to youth when it legalized marijuana. It needs to do a better job with vaping.

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