Speaking Out: Inside the teen vaping crisis

By  Sarah Wentzell, Youth Speak News
  • October 9, 2019

The unknown is frightening. I think that is one reason why many people are afraid of the dark. We do not know what is lurking out there. It is not familiar and reassuringly clear like the daylight. 

That is what makes vaping so concerning to me. So much of it is in the dark. No one really knows exactly what effects vaping may have on a person over a period of time. Since the electronic cigarette became relatively popular recently, much of the science around vaping is limited. We have to be careful when treading where we can not see. 

Countless times through history, awareness over health risks has dramatically shifted. For example, asbestos — now known to be potentially lethal — used to be used in homes as insulation. Now with several illnesses and deaths in the United States reportedly linked to vaping, it makes me wonder whether it will be added to the list of dangerous substances. 

Worryingly, vaping has become an increasing problem among youth. Although Canada’s Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which passed last year, put significant restrictions on youth advertising and promotion, many young people have already become addicted to vaping. 

I fear it may be hard to reverse this trend. Now that young people have been barraged with the purported advantages of vaping, it seems that it may become an ever-increasing problem for uninformed youth. 

The question remains as to whether the legislation is doing enough. Vaping promotion is still allowed to be displayed in convenience stores, sometimes even appearing next to candy. Legislation will be hard to enforce with promotions appearing across Canada.

An article by Kate Keller on Smithsonian.com  — headlined “Ads for E-Cigarettes Today Hearken Back to the Banned Tricks of Big Tobacco” — makes me wonder whether history is repeating itself. The article shows how early cigarette ads misrepresented the dangers of tobacco smoking, often portraying medical doctors in the ads. Then came government regulations and restrictions that put cigarette ads under intense scrutiny. Eventually, ads for tobacco products were banned in Canada. 

Vaping does not fall under that restriction.

A large part of the attraction to vaping comes down to the mentality of this generation of youth. It is a natural inclination to search for happiness and fulfillment, but our secular culture is constantly telling us that this is to be found in short-term pleasure regardless of moral absolutes. 

Plus, there is always the insistent nagging of peer pressure. Sometimes it happens almost subconsciously. It is not that hard to understand, either. We want people to like us. We want to be “cool.” 

Some of the best advice I have heard on this is found in the words of Dr. Seuss: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” 

(Wentzell, 16, is a Grade 11 student in Seton Home Study School in Thunder Bay, Ont.) 

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