A decade ago vaping was introduced as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco and an effective way to help smokers kick nicotine addiction. However, trendy vape pens and flavours have attracted a different demographic: youth and teens. Recently vaping has grown in popularity among teens and has provided an unfortunate pathway to nicotine addiction among people who weren’t previously cigarette smokers. Though vaping is often presented as safe, it is highly addictive and linked to serious health risks. So let’s get the facts straight about vaping.
Vaping is on the rise
In 2022, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph’s WHY Survey reported vape use was highest for non-binary students in grade 9 and up (26%) compared to students who identify as binary. Female students in grade 9 and up reported higher vape use in the past year (24.8%) compared to male students in grade 9 and up (19%). These local numbers align with national trends. Between 2017 and 2019, rates of youth vaping also increased in Canada.
What’s in vape liquid?
Many vape products are manufactured outside of Canada and what is on the product information label does not always match what’s found in the liquid. Users can’t be sure what’s in their vape. What we do know is that coughing, headaches and dizziness are just a few of the negative health effects of vaping. What’s more concerning is that the longer-term health risks of vaping are still unknown.
Most vapes contain nicotine which is highly addictive. Today, vapes are manufactured in a way that delivers nicotine deep into the lungs. From there the nicotine moves quickly into the bloodstream and is delivered straight to the brain giving a rush much faster than a cigarette.
Nicotine and flavouring ingredients are dissolved in the vape’s liquid mixture made up of propylene glycol (PG) and glycerol. Once heated these chemicals may not be safe to inhale. Vaping devices also include metals and other additives. Currently there isn’t enough research to determine the long-term health risks created when these combination of elements are heated to 250 degrees then vaporized and inhaled.
Effects of vaping on teens
Though the sale of flavoured vape liquids is restricted in Ontario, vaping liquids can still be found in a variety of flavours designed to appeal to youth. Since young brains are still developing during adolescence and into young adulthood, the use of nicotine (and cannabis) can lead to addiction, lower impulse control and problems with memory and concentration.
Talking to teens about vaping
Peer pressure, popularity, stress and anxiety are among the reasons that teens and youth start vaping. Taking steps to learn about vaping and talking to young people about the harms and risks can help prevent them from experimenting with it and becoming addicted to nicotine.
Drug-Free Canada suggests these tips to help you get the conversation started:
- Look for natural opportunities to talk when you have their attention (e.g., driving home from school and quickly mention noticing the number of students vaping)
- Ask open-ended questions and restate what you hear (e.g., What do you think about vaping? So, it sounds to me like….)
- Be open, non-judgmental, caring and understanding
- Take the opportunity to learn together (e.g., if you don’t know the lingo, ask!)
You can support and encourage young people and anyone who wants to quit vaping. Visit wdgpublichealth.ca/vaping for helpful information and resources.