Editorial: Time to take vaping pitfalls seriously

It’s kind of amazing that companies have convinced a whole new generation to, essentially, smoke.

Pre-teens, teens and young adults who wouldn’t think of smoking a cigarette or cigar have taken to vaping like it’s the hottest new fad. We’d bet that many think they’re avoiding the pitfalls of smoking with this choice. And while vaping is less harmful for people than smoking cigarettes, and thus can be a positive change for people who are already smokers, that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

Health Canada tells us that vaping can increase your exposure to chemicals that can cause things like lung cancer. It can also expose you to nicotine (nicotine is in many, but not all, e-cigarettes). Nicotine remains highly addictive, even without the lead, arsenic, ammonia and more that are present in traditional tobacco products. Health Canada lists known effects of nicotine, including affects on memory and concentration and altering teen brain development, and possible effects of exposure to nicotine in adolescence including reduced impulse control and cognitive and behavioural problems.

It’s disturbing, then, that e-cigarettes seem to be targeted towards young people. The “flavours” alone tell us this, with many of them sounding and smelling like types of candy. But consuming a chocolate bar, or a bag of cotton candy it is not.

Teens and youth are more than likely not thinking about the fact they could be starting a lifelong dependency when they take up vaping. They’re not thinking about reducing their impulse control and possible cognitive problems. They’re not thinking about the expense of decades of addiction to nicotine that they could be signing up for. They’re likely just thinking about how cool they’ll look to their friends, or how vaping will help them fit in if their friends are all doing it. Sound familiar? It’s smoking, all over again.

We as a society need to take this seriously. For too many kids, it will not be just a bit of harmless experimental fun.

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