A group of students and academics at the University of Calgary is calling for stricter regulations around vaping and minors.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Elected officials must attend to the vaping epidemic that is addicting school students to nicotine.Electronic cigarettes, or “vapes,” contain a battery-powered component that heats e-liquid to become vapour that typically contains nicotine. When inhaled, it can addict youth in as little as 72 hours.Vaping is often touted as a “cleaner alternative” to combustible cigarettes. Vapes are discrete and attractive and look “cool.” Compared to traditional cigarettes, the odour is pleasant and temporary. Many claim that vapes are a smoking-cessation device. But they initiate smoking in minors.University of Calgary student Kayla Wong says, “I believed I had to do it to fit in and get others to like me. I wanted to try those smoke-ring tricks in videos because they looked cool. At 16, I walked into a store and the owner knew I was young, but he still sold a vape to me. I had no idea of the risks and knew nothing about vapes. I got addicted.”One of us is a high school student now. She is genuinely scared for her classmates who vape and is really worried that nobody cares that these friends might need oxygen from tanks to breathe in the future.These are not idle fears. Vaping is harmful to health. The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine reported in a 2018 a systematic review that there is substantial evidence that vaping leads to symptoms of addiction and that vaping by youth increases their risk of using combustible cigarettes. There is moderate evidence for increased cough and wheeze in adolescents who use e-cigarettes, and an increase in asthma exacerbations. There is conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes can explode and cause burns and projectile injuries.In addition to causing harm to health, vaping products are expensive given the finances of a typical high school or junior high student. For example, a starter kit of a popular device costs $65 and a pack of pods (e-liquid) costs $20.Vaping’s effect on education is also detrimental. University student Zoe Hahn tells of a Calgary high school student who was visibly shaking in the school bathroom; she begged everyone who came in to borrow their vaping devices to get a “nic hit.” Addicted students can miss class to vape or inhale in class. We have heard of schools removing bathroom doors to attempt to stop vaping at school.Vaping is costing students what they hold dear. We have heard of a student expelled from a hockey team because his nicotine addiction was so strong that he simply could not refrain from vaping in the dressing room.Elected officials should pay attention. As far as we know, Alberta has done nothing to regulate the use of vapes. The federal government through Health Canada has acted neither fast enough nor far enough to address the epidemic of teen vaping.The group Stop Addicting Adolescents to Vaping and E-cigarettes consists of university and high school students, professors of medicine, physicians and community members. It is calling for much stricter regulation of vaping. Specifically, it calls on all levels of government:To require that vaping device and e-juice sales be sold only from behind a pharmacy counter and only to adults; To prevent internet sales; To ban all flavours, except tobacco; To ban vaping everywhere that smoking of tobacco cigarettes is banned; To ban all advertising of vaping devices and accessories; To require all devices and e-juice to be sold in plain packaging; To regulate the e-liquids strictly to reduce toxins, and to ensure that the true amount of nicotine is reported and all other toxic elements are described on the label; To control the manufacture of the actual devices to ensure safety. We invite parents and teachers to join us and urge teachers to begin to educate about the dangers of vaping in elementary school.Sophie-Charlotte Verbeke is a high school student. From the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, are students, alumni and faculty: Devin Aggarwal, Emily Downey, Joweria Ekram, Seong Ha, Zoe Hahn, Anju Hollis, Asha Hollis, Andrew Hunter, Sakshi Kaur, Ayisha Khalid, Cenxiao Li, Emily Macphail, Elena Mitevska, Tanaeem Rehman, Elliott Reichardt, Kayla Wong, Dr. Aravind Ganesh and assistant professor Juliet Guichon.