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Health Unit concerned about rise in youth vaping

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Youth vaping is on the rise in Grey-Bruce, and that might mean more young smokers, warns the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

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In a news release timed to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, health unit officials said that youth vaping has become a significant issue for school staff and health unit enforcement officers this year.

Enforcement officers have issued 25 tickets so far this year for vaping in a prohibited place under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which states that anyone smoking or vaping must be 20 metres away from school property, including parking lots and sports fields. That compares with five tickets in all of 2018.

And with the increase comes concern that this will lead to a rise in the use of tobacco products by youth.

“Young people and parents might not be aware that vape products contain nicotine in high amounts,” Brooke Tomsett, a youth advisor in the Tobacco Prevention program at the Grey Bruce Health Unit, said in an interview.

She said that some popular e-cigarette brand names sell single-use e-liquid pods that can contain up to 20 cigarettes worth of the addictive substance.Some products also use nicotine salts, which are less harsh when inhaled and are more easily absorbed by the body, she said.

“Some parents might not be aware of all the risks and they might think that it might not be their child or teen who is doing it,” said Tomsett.

She added that some youth think they are skirting the risk by using vape products that do not contain nicotine, but that does not necessarily work.

A study by The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Health cited in the press release concluded that “there is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth.”

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The use of vapes or e-cigarettes may also cause health issues.

“Vaping may seem low risk, but there is growing evidence it causes serious harm to the lungs, heart and respiratory system. When heated and inhaled, the ingredients in e-liquids affect lung function.”

Tomsett and other members of the Grey Bruce Health Unit are currently working on a vaping prevention curriculum that they hope some teachers will adopt as early as this fall. It’s based on a curriculum developed at the Public Health department of the University of Texas.

“It discusses the risks, and marketing in the tobacco and vaping industry. The idea is to catch people before they get hooked.”

The Health Unit currently runs 10-week smoking and vaping cessation programs at local high schools. Participants attend once per week. Tomsett said many first time offenders of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act are diverted to programs like these, as opposed to paying a fine or doing community service.

Youth with addiction issues can also get help through the CHOICES Drug and Alcohol Counselling for Youth program by calling 519-371-5487 or 1-800-265-3133.

Currently, vaping products, such as e-liquids, are regulated under the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which includes measures to restrict access to youth and protect their health. Under the act, it is against the law to sell or supply vaping devices or e-liquids to anyone under 19. Breaking the law comes with a fine of $490.

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