Up in Smoke: Teen Vaping


Vaping products, the latest addition to the repertoire of legalized cannabis substances in Canada, hit the market mid-December 2019. Although vaping cannabis is just now becoming legal, vaping is far from a new trend. The act has become commonplace in many public spaces as an alternative to smoking. The largest concern with this growing trend is the unknown impact of inhaling synthetic or “condensed” chemicals that are found in vaping products and their effects on pulmonary health. Vaping is marketed as a “safer” means of inhaling substances, until recently.

The legalization of cannabis vaping products has been met with controversy, as the United States is currently in the middle of a national epidemic of vaping-related illnesses. According to the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 2,409 confirmed cases, including 52 deaths across all 50 states this year. Of greatest concern is the age at which these incidences are occurring. Among the reported cases, 78% were in people younger than 35, with an average age of 24. Some reported cases have involved individuals as young as 13.

Each year the United States conducts a survey of drug, alcohol and cigarette use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders as well as their attitudes towards the substances. According to the survey, 20.8% of twelfth graders, 19.4% of tenth graders and 7% of eighth-graders used cannabis vaping products.

In Canada, the Ontario law states that the minimum age to buy, use and possess recreational cannabis is 19 years of age, which is in line with the legislation surrounding tobacco and alcohol. To date, there have been 14 cases of vaping-associated lung illness reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada and roughly 15% of these have been individuals under the age of 18.

Young adults participating in recreational cannabis use may be naïve to the potential consequences and false advertising of vaping. The tissues within the lung are extremely sensitive and vulnerable to chemicals that can be found in vaping products. Particularly, chemicals which make vaping more appealing to adolescents, such as terpenes (flavouring).

Come the new year there will be a ban on advertising vapes in convenience stores and gas stations, however there is still a need to educate young individuals on the health risks of vaping and to emphasize making the smart decision when it comes to substance use.

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