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Editorial: The new generation of smokers

These days it’s called vaping
Most teens don’t know that they’re inhaling nicotine while vaping (File photo).

As the kids head back to school, there are many things to consider, from school supplies to electives.

But something that can’t be ignored is how many of those kids are going to be exposed to, and probably at least try, smoking.

We let our guard down and a whole new generation of kids have been convinced to smoke, though it’s not called that anymore.

These days it’s called vaping, but it is, essentially smoking. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. We’ve come a long way in the battle to eliminate traditional tobacco smoking in Canada. The number of people who smoke has plummeted as smoking is banned from most public places. Many of us will remember when it was commonplace for there to be a smoking section in restaurants denoted only by the ashtray on the table — a table directly next to a non-smoking table, with no barrier in between. Many will even remember when people were still allowed to smoke on airplanes (imagine that recycled air). Or when favourite celebrities and even doctors would appear in cigarette commercials, extolling the supposed virtues of the habit.

It now stands out when you pass someone on the street who has lit up.

Young people were not taking up cigarettes in any kind of significant numbers. The cool factor was gone, drowned in the deluge information about cigarettes causing cancer and other health issues.

There was a brief blip where cigars became a (smelly) fad, but that passed relatively quickly, and was aimed at adults.

But now the cloud of vapour smells sweet, like candy, and the old chemicals have been switched for new ones, with one very notable exception: nicotine.

Vapes, which go by any number of nicknames, are filled with a liquid that vaporizes with heat. That substance is then inhaled into the lungs of the smoker. There are some that do not contain nicotine, but the vast majority do, because the best way to get someone to buy a product over and over again is to make it addictive — which nicotine, is, of course.

Health Canada is blunt in its assessment on its website: “Vaping nicotine can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Vaping can expose you to chemicals that can be harmful to your health.” And: “Kids and teens who vape nicotine are particularly at risk to the harmful effects of nicotine.”

Vaping may be less harmful for you than traditional cigarettes, but that doesn’t equal harmless. We’ve been successful in fighting traditional tobacco. Time to step up the fight against vaping.