OTTAWA — A year ago vaping wasn’t all that cool, Grade 12 student Laurence Lafleur says of the rising trend among teens, but it’s become “super popular” and it’s viewed as an alternative to cigarettes.
Tropical fruit flavors are all the rage.
The Holy Trinity Catholic High School student is in good company when she suggests it’s “cool” — that’s why most teens say they do it.
But eliminating that “coolness” factor is the aim of new federal legislation which passed this week and targets teens.
After the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act receives royal assent in the coming days, selling vaping products to anyone under 18 will be banned and marketing flavors to teens will be prohibited, along with marketing that features health claims or “lifestyle” themes or seeks to appeal to youth. Existing legislation in Ontario already bans sales of e-cigarettes and accessories to anyone under 19.
“It will lose its coolness, especially if there are more restrictions put on it and something else will probably pop up,” said Marion Wright, the executive director of Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services.
Vaping is another term for electronic cigarettes or vaporizers. Proponents of vaping tout it as a healthy alternative to cigarettes or an option to help adults quit, but it has suddenly been taking high schools by storm, prompting legislation to help address its use.
Without evidence on the long-term effects of vaping, it’s a challenging trend to contend with. Students say some of their teachers are supportive and vape themselves, while others discourage the practice and reprimand students if they carry the smell of a flavor into the classroom.
Students listed a whole slew of flavors with nicotine they like, including watermelon and sour patch kids.
High school student Mikey Keays, who started vaping in March, inhaled from her device and said she enjoys it because it’s cool and she likes the esthetic.
“This one is sugar cookie,” she said. But unlike most teens, the De La Salle high school student opts for nicotine-free vaping liquid, or for a very low percentage of nicotine, because she doesn’t want to become addicted.
Wright cautioned against the use of even nicotine-free vaping because there are still questions about the effects.
The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey in 2015 found 26 percent of youth, or 534,000 individuals between the ages 15 and 19, had tried an e-cigarette.
The 2014-15 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey found 18 percent of students in Grades 6 to 12 had tried an e-cigarette and six percent had used one in the previous 30 days. New data is expected to be released this year.
Questions remain about how the government will enforce its new regulations and the impact they will have.
A pair of teen boys at Lisgar Collegiate Institute may not notice the change. They prefer plain flavors like grape and mint and one of the boys orders supplies online from China. The legislation does include a measure that’s intended to restrict sales to youth, however, such as addressing age verification in relation to online sales.
The Lisgar students said vaping is popular among classmates and there’s a spot near the school called “the canal club” where students vape, but they’re not part of the club.
One of the boys was addicted to cigarettes and turned to vaping as an alternative. He said he’s not addicted but that he often has a “hankering” to vape and will do so in a nearby park when his parents aren’t home.
The other said he does it socially because he doesn’t smoke marijuana and it’s a way to be “in the crowd”.
While they have a clandestine approach to acquiring supplies, most minors ask adults to purchase the goods for them.
The owner of Vape Shop, Nicholas Ethier, said he’s experienced adults shopping for minors in his shop and he refuses their business.
Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press
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