A new study has revealed a massive 74 per cent increase in youth vaping in Canada from 2017 to 2018.
Take-up of vaping by teens aged 16 to 19 jumped from 8.4 per cent to 14.6 per cent, a 74 per cent over the year, according to the study published by the British Medical Journal.
The report was led by Professor David Hammond of the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
“The vaping market in North America has evolved rapidly over the past two years owing to the growth of JUUL e-cigarettes and similar products,” the authors wrote.
“JUUL uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to deliver higher concentrations of nicotine than conventional e-cigarettes. News reports and social media analyses suggest that both the marketing and discreet product design of JUUL are particularly appealing to young people.”
Canada’s Tobacco and Vaping Products Act came into effect in May 2018 allowing adults to legally access vaping products with nicotine, though unregulated vaping products have been available for more than a decade, the government admits.
“Between 2017 and 2018, the proportion of Canadian adolescents who usually used JUUL increased from zero per cent to 10 per cent, despite the device being on the market for only one month,”the report said.
The study took a sample of 7,891 Canadian teens in 2017 and 2018. Online surveys were conducted in July to August 2017 and August to September 2018.
“Though the impact of vaping products on smoking rates remains highly contentious, it is unfortunate that the characteristics that enhance the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids—namely, efficient nicotine delivery—also increase their potential to promote addiction among young people,” the report said.
Hammond told The Canadian Press he hopes the results are just a "blip," but said it would be worrisome if other studies came to the same conclusion.
"What the government and public-health authorities need to do is find some balance to allow adult smokers to have access to these products, without creating a new generation of nicotine users," Hammond said.
"We haven't got that balance right yet."
The Canadian Cancer Society has called for immediate government action to address the “significant and troubling increase” in youth vaping in Canada.
Quoting the BMJ study, the society said cigarette smoking among 16 to 19 year-olds in the same 2017 to 2018 time period increased by 45 per cent, from 10.7 per cent to 15.5 per cent.
Previous surveys had shown a continuing decline in youth smoking, the society said.
"E-cigarettes are supposed to be for adult smokers who have been unable to quit (tobacco)," said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at CCS.
"But the results of this new study regarding youth trends are of tremendous concern. Given the progress that has been made to reduce youth smoking, we must avoid a new generation of teenagers becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping products."
The CSS has urged provinces to increase the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and vaping products to 21.
“Provinces should also prohibit the sale of flavoured vaping products except in adult-only specialty vape shops,” the CCS said in a press release.
Alberta and Saskatchewan, the only provinces without legislation on vaping products, should immediately adopt comprehensive legislation, the CCS urged.
Ontario should ban vape advertising in retailers as seven other provinces have done, it said.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, killing nearly 45,000 Canadians each year, including 30 per cent of all cancer deaths, CCS said.
--- With files from The Canadian Press