Scientists and health experts have been ringing alarm bells and publishing studies for years on the dangers of teen vaping.
But you’d be hard pressed to know that from the actions that Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott took this week.
She ordered hospitals to start reporting incidents of severe pulmonary disease related to vaping.
“I have become increasingly concerned about the prevalence and possible health consequences of vaping, particularly as they affect our youth,” she said.
The “possible health consequences.”
Really? As though the dangers of vaping among teens is a brand-new idea.
Yes, news broke this week that a teenager was put on life support with a vaping-related lung illness in London, Ont., and Toronto Public Health has received reports of other possible cases in recent weeks.
But U.S. officials say at least seven people have died in the past month and 380 more have fallen sick from a severe respiratory illness related to vaping.
And long before that there was plenty of scientific evidence on the alarming increase in vaping, especially among teens.
This was all well known when the Ford government took office more than a year ago. And all along, Elliott has been sitting on a concrete measure that the provincial government could take to help stem the tide of teens vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine in the first place.
There’s legislation on the books to put vaping products behind cupboard doors in stores where they belong with cigarettes. It was passed by the previous Wynne government.
But under Elliott’s watch, the Ford government bowed to pressure from tobacco giants and retailers and put on hold the regulations that were to come into effect in July 2018.
Ordering hospitals to record severe vaping-related illnesses is certainly needed now. But the government has delayed for far too long bringing in the necessary regulations to reduce the marketing that serves to hook young people on these products
Studies have found the likelihood that kids will vape is directly influenced by promotion and advertising of those products in stores.
Elliott says she’s looking for “evidence-based solutions that protect our youth from the potential dangers of vaping.” She already has an evidence-based solution. She should act on it.
Every moment counts.
After all, the number of teens aged 16 to 19 who vape rose by a whopping 79 per cent between 2017 and 2018. And that increase coincided with a more worrisome increase of 57 per cent in the number of teens who reported smoking during the same time, sadly marking the first time in 30 years that smoking rates among teens are up.
In fact, a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open last February found that young people who used e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes than those who don’t vape.
What more evidence does the minister need to enact the regulations to put vaping products behind cupboard doors, as seven other provinces already require, and ban candy- and fruit-flavoured vaping products that are targeted at kids?
Another teen on life support who might not have even considered vaping without the lure of advertising?
We’ve seen this movie before. Government inertia and indifference in the past led to millions becoming addicted, getting ill and dying from smoking cigarettes.
We shouldn’t risk that again with nicotine-laced vaping products.
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Elliott is right about one thing: we need to know more about what is causing the respiratory illnesses from vaping.
But until that is known, she has more than enough evidence in hand to warrant enacting regulations to prevent big tobacco from promoting those products to teens in stores and drawing up legislation to ban the sale of candy- and fruit-flavoured vaping products.
Elliott must act now.