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B.C. health minister calls for federal action on vaping after study shows surge in teen use

Health Minister Adrian Dix says B.C. is ready to step up with tougher provincial restrictions on vaping following new research showing skyrocketing rates of e-cigarette rates by Canadian teens.

In a news release Thursday, Dix said the province has recommended federal regulatory action on advertising of vaping products, as well as restrictions on nicotine concentrations and sales of flavoured vaping liquids.

“B.C. also stands ready to introduce its own initiatives should federal action be delayed. Obviously, it is our preference to work with other jurisdictions and the federal government on joint action,” Dix said.

“In addition, we will be working with youth across B.C. to establish youth-led efforts to curb vaping among young people.”

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that teen vaping rose by a whopping 74 per cent in a single year in Canada.

The researchers say an online survey found the number of Canadian participants aged 16 to 19 who reported vaping in the previous month rose from 8.4 per cent in 2017 to 14.6 per cent last year.

Rates of weekly use climbed to 9.3 per cent from 5.2 per cent over the same time period.

‘The current situation is not working’

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond, who led the study of youth vaping in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., said that while e-cigarettes can help adults quit smoking, policy-makers need to be proactive in preventing young Canadians from picking up the habit.

“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.”

Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said the government must take immediate action to level the scales.

“Clearly, the current situation is not working,” said Cunningham. “Therefore, we need to move quickly.”

In May 2018, Ottawa formally legalized vaping, opening the door for international vaping brands — some backed by big tobacco companies — to enter the Canadian market.

Weeks after becoming available in Canada, some of these vaping brands ranked among the most popular with teens, along with similar high-nicotine products, said Hammond. In the U.S., researchers found parallels between the rise of these brands and a surge in youth vaping, he said.

Calls for restrictions on advertising

Cunningham said Ottawa needs to tighten up advertising rules for vaping products to make them at least as restrictive as those for cannabis.

Federal legislation allows for some advertising of vaping products, but promotions targeted at youth are prohibited.

In January, Health Canada proposed new measures to bar these advertisements from venues where young people are likely to be exposed to them, including public places, retail stores and youth-oriented media. It also launched a multi-phase campaign to educate teens about the risks associated with vaping at a young age.

A spokesperson for Health Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the study also indicated that conventional cigarette use among participants increased from 10.7 per cent in 2017 to 15.5 per cent the following year, deviating from decades of research suggesting youth smoking in Canada was on the decline, Hammond said.

Hammond said he hopes the results are just a “blip,” but said it would be worrisome if other studies came to the same conclusion.


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