Andrea Rondeau column: Vaping illness hits B.C.: time to act is now

We are barrelling head first into a new health crisis

I never thought we’d be reporting on such a thing. I thought, erroneously as it turned out, that the days of people inhaling chemicals into their lungs and making themselves sick were waning.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when it seemed the fad of puffing away on a device was to be consigned to the dustbin of history, where it belongs, as the new young generation more often wrinkled their noses at the notion of sucking down cigarette smoke than saw it as a cool thing to try.

After all, things have changed radically even since I was young. I remember the days of smoking sections in restaurants and cafés — sections that didn’t even have to be separate from the non-smoking section. Ashtrays on the tables were really the only distinction. It was commonplace for people to smoke as they walked down the street. You could even walk into some stores or offices and find a smoke haze with a proprietor and customers obscured somewhere therein.

Those days, I thought, were long gone. Now, it is an oddity to come across someone walking down the sidewalk smoking, and the habit is banned from eating and most other establishments altogether.

Todays young generation has grown up on the knowledge that smoking can cause cancer and a variety of other ugly and painful diseases that destroy the quality of life for those suffering from them. Fewer and fewer young people were picking up cigarettes.

But vaping, the big companies hocking these products for buckets of cash have managed to convince them, is a harmless, and yes indeed, fashionable thing to do.

Except that this week the province notified us of the first confirmed probable case of vaping related illness in B.C., and further said that there are several others under investigation right now. In the United States, a number of people have died from such illnesses, with many other sick.

“These are the first cases of vaping-related illness in B.C., but we fully expect there will be more as this is quickly emerging as a significant public health issue,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “Vaping is turning back the clock on decades of effective anti-smoking efforts and creating a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.”

We are barreling head first into a new health crisis, just as an old one was finally winding down. Now is the time to try to get ahead of it. It’s time to take vaping seriously. There will be serious consequences if we don’t.

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