What’s All This Vape Talk About Anyways?

Consumers have been able to purchase vape products in Canada since 2004, so why are we just starting to see it as an issue now? It might be because previous to 2018, vape products sold in Canada were not legally allowed to contain nicotine. However, that changed with the development of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA).

Since the TVPA came into play in 2018 adults are now able to purchase vape products that contain nicotine, ideally to help them quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. There is research supporting that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, this is because replacing cigarette smoking with vapes reduces individual exposure to many of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco.

Between 2017 and 2018 researchers saw a significant increase in youth vaping. Experts suggest this could be related to the sudden increase in the marketing of vape products. There is a particular concern that exists around the consequences of vaping in youth. Years of public health efforts have focused on reducing tobacco smoking and experts worry that with the uptake of vaping in youth smoking rates will once again begin to rise.

Vaping can deliver nicotine into the body which can lead to an addiction and physical dependence, specifically in youth nicotine can alter brain development. Additionally, vaping can expose harmful chemicals to the lungs. Some specific cases of hospitalization have been highlighted in the media, however, the exact relationship with vaping is only loosely understood. Currently, a large concern in the public health world is on the long-term health impacts of vaping, which are still unknown to researchers.

Federally, vaping in Canada is regulated by the TVPA, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Food and Drugs Act, and the Non-Smoker’s Health Act. The regulations placed on vaping in Canada are relatively lenient in comparison to other countries. Provinces and municipalities do have the opportunity to regulate vaping products in their jurisdictions. Currently in Alberta there is no provincial legislation though some municipalities have bylaws to prevent vaping in public places. However, the minister of health requested a review of the tobacco and smoking legislation with a focus on regulating vaping in October 2019.

In the upcoming months I will be pursuing research that seeks to understand youth’s relationship with vaping and what that means. Right now, the best thing for Canadians to do is to stay informed and to protect their youth from the potential consequences of vaping. More information about vaping can be found on Health Canada’s website.

- Kendra Connolly