Andrea Rondeau column: Reckoning coming on vaping

Those producing and selling vaping products have convinced a whole new generation to smoke

One big problem with vaping is who’s doing it.

Early in September Health Canada issued a warning about the potential catastrophic health effects of vaping after officials in the U.S. reported multiple cases of severe breathing illnesses linked to vaping, including a number of deaths. They have now identified 380 confirmed and probable cases in 36 states and one territory, and there have been six deaths.

In Canada, the first case of severe respiratory illness related to vaping was confirmed on Wednesday, and it seems likely that more will follow as health care professionals start looking for them.

The truly sad thing is that the Canadian case is a youth. And that’s the real problem with vaping.

Those producing and selling vaping products have convinced a whole new generation to smoke, handing over their money for the privilege of becoming nicotine addicts. Not all vaping products contain nicotine, but according to Health Canada, most vaping substances for sale do.

Vaping products have been made attractive to youths and even children, with liquids flavoured like various candies and sweets. Even if that’s not the aim of the manufacturers, the reality is that youths, many of whom have never smoked cigarettes, are the ones taking up vaping, because it’s seen as cool, and importantly, harmless.

But it’s not harmless. We don’t even know what all the effects will be, as this rise in serious illnesses shows. Many of the cases in the U.S. have been linked specifically to vaping THC. But even if the only effect people face is an addiction to nicotine, that can be a problem.

Two of the arguments I’ve heard for allowing vaping in Canada are one, that if it was banned it would just create a black market, not eliminate vaping, and two, that vaping is a good choice for those who want to quit smoking cigarettes, or at least reduce their risk of illness. It is true that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and for those who are already smoking, it is a more desirable way to get a nicotine fix (though gum and patches also perform this service). So perhaps if we want people to be able to continue to use it for this purpose, they could get a prescription?

In this case, India is ahead of the game — they’ve just banned vaping products, so it’s clear not everyone is convinced by the arguments for.

Getting customers hooked at a young age may be great from purely business perspective, but from a public health perspective, is this really something we want? We’re coming closer and closer to a real reckoning, it seems.

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