Take a deep breath.
Recent media reports outlining a major increase serious health issues related to teens vaping may be over-exaggerated, says a local vape shop owner, and he’s hoping to set the record straight.
“We’ve seen in the media lately a slew of articles about teenagers having lung issues from vaping,” said Brett Coleman, co-owner Barrie Vape Co. “From what I’ve been able to glean from the reports on that, they’re not actually vaping, they’re using THC cartridges they’ve bought from overseas distributors. That’s not actually vaping.”
Electronic cigarettes are commonly called e-cigs or vapes. The devices heat a liquid mix that contains propylene glycol, other chemicals and flavouring. Called e-juices, many of these liquids contain nicotine. When the e-juice is heated it becomes an aerosol vapour that you inhale or vape.
According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the health risks of vaping are not yet known because vaping devices have not been on the market long enough to be studied for both short- and long-term health effects.
The health risks of inhaling someone’s second-hand vapour are also still being studied.
In 2017, the Royal College of Physicians determined e-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking, do not result in the normalization of smoking and can be a useful tool to reduce the harm associated with tobacco use.
Coleman says that while vaping has been around since 2006, he started vaping himself in 2009. He got into the vaping industry in 2012. By and large, he says most people who come into his store curious about vaping are trying to get off tobacco.
“That’s really the entire purpose of our business, to transition them into something less serious,” he said.
“The whole purpose here is harm reduction. We’re not claiming to be good for you. We’re not claiming that vaping is some sort of panacea that is going to cure all your ills. It’s just less harmful, and it’s a harm-reduction strategy,” Coleman added.
On June 21, Health Canada announced new proposed regulations to strengthen the requirements for labelling and packaging of vaping products, due to growing concern of youth vaping. Youth are especially at risk if they start to use e-cigarettes as nicotine can affect the developing brain. Consultations on the proposed regulations run until Sept. 5.
Provincial law bans the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 and federal laws ban advertising that promotes vaping as a part of a popular lifestyle, as well as youth-friendly e-juice flavours like candy.
Coleman says his store never carries vaping products he feels may be marketing to those under 19 years old.
“If there are any brands we feel may appeal to children, we drop them and send them back to the manufacturer,” he said. “We don’t even allow anyone to come into our store if they’re under 19.”
Coleman said he gets frustrated by misinformation spread online about vaping.
“I would urge people to really do their research and look at peer-reviewed studies,” he said. “(Media) will use the biggest, shiniest, most terrifying headlines they can get. The scare tactics that the media are willing to use to get clicks... is deplorable.”
A statement put out by Health Canada in November 2018 acknowledged the significant increase of youth vaping seen in the U.S., but clarified the issue had not yet been seen north of the border.
“Canada has not seen a similar spike in the use of vaping products by youth,” according to the statement.
Jessica Dolan, who works in communications at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, said emergency-department physicians at the Barrie hospital have not yet had anyone presenting with vaping-related concerns or illnesses.
Jodi Lloyd, chair of the Simcoe County District School Board, said that while vaping, like smoking, isn’t allowed on school property under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the curriculum has changed to include information on the practice in collaboration with the health unit.
“It’s a societal concern,” she said. “As a school board, we have the same concern.”
Among youth in Grades 7-12, the 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey showed 17.5 per cent of students had vaped in the past year compared to 11.6 per cent who had smoked cigarettes.
A more recent study published on Aug. 20 in Radiology found vaping transiently impacted endothelial function in healthy non-smokers. However, the study only looked at 31 subjects and also concluded more studies are needed on the issue.
“It took us a long time to understand the health implications of smoking and work toward reduction,” said Lloyd. “And I think we’re in the early stages of that with vaping.
“We do have some concerns about the marketing of these products. I think it’s something we need to get out ahead of, very aggressively in my opinion,” she added.
For more information from the health unit on health concerns of vaping, click here.