Discussion around vaping-related illness has reached an all-time high recently among the public and healthcare providers alike – not surprising given the large number of people in the US who have become seriously ill without a definitive explanation as to why. In BC, just three people have become ill from vaping to date – the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is monitoring the provincial situation, and a number of health care organizations have developed toolkits to help people stop vaping.
A major concern is the spike in popularity of youth vaping, which is threatening to addict a new generation of young people on nicotine. A recent Health Canada survey showed that nearly a quarter of all students in grades 7-12 have tried e-cigarettes. And a study this past June showed a 74% increase in vaping among 16-19 year-old Canadians from 2017 to 2018.
The provincial government recently announced strict new regulations governing the sale of vaping products, in an effort to make them less readily available to young people. Flavoured products are now only for sale in age-restricted shops, and some flavours have been banned outright. Provincial sales tax on vaping products will jump 20% come January 2020, plain packaging will be required, and advertising will be limited.
So, how should you talk to young people in your life about vaping? Coquitlam-based family physician Dr Kathleen Ross says she encourages youth to be informed and cautious, to look at the reports and evidence for themselves before beginning to vape. “Our youth are intelligent and well informed from a variety of sources. Try to be open with your teen about vaping, and make it a chat – not a lecture, and leave any judgement out,” she urges. Creating a safe place for a young person to speak honestly can go a long way.
Dr Ross suggests people who vape should consider tapering off as soon as possible, and avoid buying vaping materials off the streets, tampering with products, or re-using single use devices. Speaking to your family physician about any symptoms that concern you is crucial, and they can also offer sound advice on how to quit.
”We are still learning about vaping-related illness, particularly as there appears to be a range of illnesses associated with vaping. We don’t really know if there are long term effects from even short term use,” says Dr Ross. The CDC recommends avoiding all vaping until further information is available.
For healthcare professionals, Dr Ross says remaining open to discussion, and being vigilant in reporting suspected vaping-related illness, will help address the problem of youth vaping. Healthcare providers are required to report possible cases of vaping-related lung illness to their health authority.