A recent Canada-wide survey is showing that teens and youth are being targeted in multiple ways when it comes to vaping, which often causes nicotine addiction.
"The Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance is a group of individuals, a group of organizations who are interested in reducing tobacco use and vaping use, and nicotine addiction in the province of Manitoba," says John McDonald, the Executive Director of Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance (MANTRA). "We're funded by the province of Manitoba and work with organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart & Stroke, Lung Association, and Manitoba Association of School Trustees."
A Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey was just completed for 2021. The study concluded that 13 percent of youth ages 15-19 acknowledged that they have vaped in the last 30 days. For those in the age range of 20-24 years old, 17 per cent said they have vaped in the past 30 days.
"There are several issues that we need to be aware of. The first one is nicotine addiction. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances that there is and that's what made cigarette smoking so attractive for years. People have been addicted for decades. Vape products have a very high level of nicotine, for the most part. You can get them with a low quantity or none, but the vast majority of users do acknowledge that they use the nicotine product."
Roughly a year ago the federal government moved to regulate the nicotine content in vape juices because it was so high.
"Nicotine affects the cardiovascular system, so your heart and your lungs," says McDonald. "The human brain continues to develop until you're about 25 years old. Nicotine has been shown to significantly impair that development. We've seen kids have issues focusing. It can cause some depression issues. There are a lot of things that go along with Nicotine, it's not harmless at all."
Some people who have been smoking cigarettes for years and are trying to quit have turned to vaping to cut out many of the other harmful products in a cigarette. However, Mcdonald notes that vaping is advertised more for teenagers.
"There are more than 8,000 flavours of vape juice available on the market. Do you think that's targeting adults who are smokers wanting to quit and prefer to have that tobacco flavour? That's targeting youth. The younger group over 65 per cent of them prefer the fruit flavours in vape juice."
The federal government is proposing to regulate flavours and take flavours off the market.
"Let's be honest and clear. Big tobacco companies predominately own vape companies and all they're doing is promoting nicotine addiction. They've got billions of dollars they've put into research and development for new nicotine products that will attract younger users. That's a problem."
Social media ads are also targeting a younger audience and the survey showed that to be true.
"Having a conversation with your kid can be difficult. Kids are pretty smart. They see a lot of things on social media and I think being open and honest with kids is really important. Have a frank conversation about the facts, not scolding or accusing, but a very informed dialogue so that they understand the risks that they are engaging with."
MANTRA has a number of regular sessions about the dangers of vaping on their Facebook page called The Quit Crowd each month.