Educators warn of effects of vaping

Credit: © 2019 iStockphoto

Vaping and e-cigarette use may be presented as alternatives to smoking and tobacco use, but health experts are warning that vapes and e-cigarrettes are not healthy alternatives for young people.

This year, as part of National Non-Smoking Week,  public health officials want  to raise awareness among youth that e-cigarettes also do not have a place in a healthy lifestyle.

“Young people seem to view vapes as safe by comparison to smoking and its use seems to be worryingly common,” said Vicky MacAdam, member of the Student Well-Being Team and school health nurse with the Bluefield Family of Schools.  “Part of our role is to educate youth about decision making around substances and make sure they know what they are using and what the impacts can be.

MacAdam says there are a lot of misconceptions about nicotine content in an e-cigarette cartridge which can be as high as that in an entire pack of cigarettes.

“Brains keep developing into the mid-twenties and nicotine can have a big impact on that development. It can lower impulse control, affect memory retention and impede learning. These are things that students don’t really know.”

Dr. David Sabapathy, Prince Edward Island’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said science around the health risks of vaping is still in progress because wide use of the products is a new phenomenon.  

“Vaping among PEI high school students is on the rise,” Sabapathy said. “A lot of these products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and could lead to tobacco use, and there are other potential risks we simply don’t know much about yet.”

“For example, one of the main ingredients in vape juices is propylene glycol. It’s what evaporates to create the vapour. There are other ingredients too – the flavourings and scents – that are being inhaled and absorbed into the body. The science simply isn’t there yet to know the health effects of inhaling these ingredients over a long period of time.”

MacAdam said the PEI Tobacco Reduction Alliance (PETRA) will be working with Student Well-Being Teams and other educators in order to make sure youth know that vaping is far from a harmless, risk-free activity.

“I think the staff in our schools do a great job of educating and putting health information on the curriculum, but when vaping is glamourized in the culture it’s hard to convince people that it might not be good for you,” she said.

“With  cigarettes it took us decades to realize the harm that was being done and the whole time tobacco was portrayed and marketed as a normal thing to use. We don’t want to see vaping become accepted and widespread in the same way.”

Get information on Health PEI's the Smoking Cessation Program (Quit Care Program).


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