Statement from the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health on the increasing rates of youth vaping in Canada


April 11, 2019

We are seeing an alarming number of youth vaping in Canada. As public health advocates we find this trend very troubling, especially as many of them are non-smokers.

In Canada, we have had tremendous success driving down youth smoking rates in recent years, but we are very concerned that a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine may lead to a resurgence in smoking or create new public health problems, reversing decades of progress.

Vaping devices come in sleek high-tech designs that appeal to youth because of their novel, cool and harmless appearance. Vaping products come in a variety of attractive flavours and the majority contain nicotine. Furthermore, the use of these products is being widely shared via social media. Most concerning are the new types of vaping products on the market, like pods and salts, that contain very high levels of nicotine. A single nicotine pod can expose a user to the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Nicotine is highly addictive and can have harmful impacts on the brain, affecting memory and concentration in everyone and brain development in youth and young adults. It alters parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Early exposure to nicotine in adolescence may increase the severity of future dependence to nicotine and tobacco. We need to act now to protect our kids from the harms associated with vaping.

Preventing nicotine addiction among youth requires a comprehensive public health approach. Collectively, we need to take aggressive steps to protect our youth from these products. Parents, youth allies, educators, health professionals and regulators all have a role to play in countering youth vaping. Acting now as a collective will help Canada reverse this trend.

What can youth do:

If you are using vaping products, stop now. If you don’t vape, don’t start. Vaping exposes users to harmful chemicals and many young people do not know they are inhaling nicotine. Encourage your friends to stay away from vaping and lead a healthy lifestyle.

What can adults do:

Parents and youth allies have an integral role to play as well. Start a conversation. Talk with children and teens about the risks of vaping. Educate yourself about these products and be a positive role model. Know the rules on vaping and smoking at your child’s school.

If you smoke or vape, reach out for help to quit. If you do vape to quit tobacco, make a plan to quit vaping as the next step. Do not give vaping devices or tobacco products to youth. Keep vaping products, including nicotine refills and empty cartridges, out of the reach of children.

What can health professionals and educators do:

Health professionals are in a unique position to educate young patients and their parents about the health risks associated with vaping. In addition, health, social services and education leaders can enhance and adapt their prevention efforts to include messaging, programming and policies for vaping and e-cigarettes. When youth leadership is involved in designing and tailoring programs and public awareness campaigns to their contexts, these efforts are more meaningful and effective.

What can governments do:

To address this issue, governments at all levels need to continue to create environments that prevent youth vaping by strengthening regulatory frameworks and policies that restrict access and availability and reduce the appeal of vaping products to youth. This includes regulating the sale and marketing of vaping products, and school and community policies that reduce use and encourage positive youth development.

While preventing youth from beginning to vape is a priority, we recognize that for adult smokers, switching completely to vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking. That said, vaping exposes users to harmful chemicals and the long-term health effects are unknown. Using tobacco products and vaping (dual use) has little benefit in reducing health risks.

If you smoke, you can get support to stop smoking through on-line resources in your province or territory and by talking to your health care professional. Youth and adults who don’t smoke should not be vaping.

We cannot allow a new generation of Canadians to become dependent on nicotine and develop long-term risks to their health. We all have a role to play in protecting our youth.

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

Dr. Bonnie Henry
Provincial Health Officer, British Columbia
Chair, Council Chief Medical Officers of Health

Dr. Brendan E. Hanley
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Yukon
Vice-Chair, Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health

Dr. Claudia Sarbu
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador

Dr. Heather Morrison
Chief Public Health Officer, Prince Edward Island

Dr. Robert Strang
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia

Dr. Jennifer Russell
Chief Medical Officer of Health, New Brunswick

Dr. Horacio Arruda
Director of Public Health and Assistant Deputy Minister
Ministry of Health and Social Services, Québec

Dr. David Williams
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontario

Dr. Michael Isaac
A/Chief Public Health Officer, Manitoba

Dr. Saqib Shahab
Chief Medical Health Officer, Saskatchewan

Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta

Dr. Michael Patterson
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nunavut

Dr. Kami Kandola
Chief Public Health Officer, Northwest Territories

Dr. Evan Adams
Chief Medical Officer, First Nations Health Authority, British Columbia

Dr. Tom Wong
Chief Medical Officer, Public Health, Indigenous Services Canada

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