OTTAWA, June 20, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - Provincial tobacco control coalitions and physicians' group are reacting to the devastating results of a new study published today in the British Medical Journal's July edition that shows a dramatic spike in vaping among Canadian teens [increases vaping among 16 to 19 yr.-olds: 74% past 30-day use, 79% in past-week use and 71% during 15 days or more in past month], coupled with a simultaneous increase in smoking traditional cigarettes [increase in smoking 16 to 19 yr.-olds: 45% in past 30-day smoking, 57% for past week smoking and 54% for smoking during 15 days or more in the past month].
"The onslaught of advertising for these nicotine delivery devices as well as their innocuous appearance (some looking like USB memory sticks, others like slick, colorful modern gadgets) and the array of flavours they come in have without a doubt contributed to their appeal among teenagers", says Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health (Alberta). "When it comes to vaping products, the federal government's actions have been wholly inadequate. Federal legislators have thrown caution to the wind and made it easy for the vaping industry to attract young people to its highly addictive nicotine products."
The study is the first to provide insight into the early impacts of the federal legislation that opened the Canadian market to the large players in the vaping industry which now predominantly include Big Tobacco. Prior to their legalization in 2018, Health Canada's lack of enforcement allowed consumers to purchase nicotine vaping devices from small business operators with limited capacity to promote their products.
"However, since last May, the large players of the vaping industry have aggressively and openly marketed products through the Internet and other more conventional channels, especially their latest generation of devices that use nicotine salts which generates a much greater dose of nicotine, such as JUUL, VYPE and STLTH," explains John McDonald, Executive Director the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance.
"Health Canada falsely reassured parliamentarians and the public about the potential adverse effects of unfettered promotion while it was clear to tobacco control organizations that the proposed legislation was too permissive and would be a challenge to enforce. And while manufacturers were told not to target kids, everyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the tobacco industry knows how easy it is to attract youth without overtly targeting them. Vaping promotion should not be seen by kids and vaping products should not be appealing to kids, no matter what reassurances are offered by the industry," adds Michael Perley, Executive Director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco.
"To make matters worse, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has been aware of this data for seven months. Instead of intervening with urgent legislation to reverse the onslaught of advertising seen by minors, she launched lengthy and time-consuming consultations regarding possible regulations that would take months if not years before being implemented," says Neil Collishaw, Research Director for Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada (PSC). A spokesperson for Health Canada recently told media that the agency had no timelines in mind with respect to its eventual recommendations. "The failure of this government to respond in a timely manner to this urgent crisis, that is, before the summer break, means that the vaping industry can continue to promote its products unimpeded and that tens of thousands of more kids will get addicted to nicotine over the next school year," adds Mr. Collishaw.
"The issue is not about being for or against vaping products," notes Flory Doucas, spokesperson and co-director of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control. "Smokers should be able to access any product that helps them quit. But the government's current lackadaisical approach has caused much collateral damage. Indeed, the numbers show that teen smoking has increased some 50%, amounting to tens of thousands of new young regular smokers and vapers, precisely the type of scenario that continues to fuel the tobacco epidemic and industry profits, which are patently rooted in the powerful addiction to nicotine."
A recent Leger poll shows that 86% of Canadians believe that the government should apply the same advertising restrictions to vaping products as it does to tobacco. "The Health Minister's call on the provinces to step in is a disingenuous tactic that passes the buck to jurisdictions that did not cause this problem. If our federal parliamentarians really care about the health of our teenagers, they would pledge to bring in urgent legislative measures on an urgent basis to severely limit advertising and retail promotion as soon as Parliament resumes after the next election", concludes Ms. Doucas.
Essential contextual elements: http://cqct.qc.ca/Communiques_docs/2019/DOCU_19_06_20_Joint_Response_Hammond_VapingStatistics_DOCU.pdf
This initiative is also endorsed by the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition and the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco.
1 Hammond et al. (2019) report that among 16-19 yr-olds, 15+ days per month smoking went from 4.8% to 7.4% from 2017 to 2018 - a 2.6 percentage point increase and 15+ days per month vaping went from 2.1% to 3.6% - a 1.5 percentage point increase in the same period. While not an exact match for the age group of the Hammond study, the CTADS 2017 survey estimates that there were 2,023,000 15-19 year-olds in 2017 (as opposed to 16-19 year-old). In a comparable population estimate, a 2.6% increase would translate to (2,023,000 *2.6%) to 52 598 additional young smokers and a 1.5% increase (2,023,000 *1.5%) would translate to 30 345 additional young vapers.
SOURCE Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control
For further information: Ottawa, Neil Collishaw: 613-297-3590 (Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada); Montreal, Flory Doucas: 514-515-6780 (Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac); Edmonton, Les Hagen: 780-919-5546 (Action on Smoking & Health - Alberta); Winnipeg, John McDonald: 204-784-7030 (Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance); Toronto, Michael Perley: 416-709-9075 (Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco)