Health officials and advocates call on N.S. government to get tough on vaping

Now that high school is back in session, vaping and e-cigarettes have become a cause for concern with youth.

Across the border in the United States, the issue with vaping has been dire and even deadly, as it was reported that six deaths have been linked to vaping related illnesses and Canadian health officials are warning the same could happen here.

“This should not be in the hands of children, period,” said Dr. Dimas Mateos, a pediatric respirologist at the IWK Health Centre. “I think it’s important to understand that these products are not regulated and we don’t know exactly what kind of chemicals are in these devices.”

When it comes to vaping and the overall health effects, they’re still relatively unknown, said Dr. Mateos, and it’s not clear how these chemicals react inside the body when inhaled.

“A lot of the flavourants, in particular, they are tested sometimes, if you eat them — if you ingest them,” he said. “But we have never considered what would happen if you breathe them in.”

A new health issue related with vaping is being called “popcorn lung,” a slang terms for a form of bronchitis obliterans, that comes from inhaling the chemical diacetyl — the ingredient that flavours microwave popcorn, which is used in many of the buttery flavours in e-juice, among a long list of other chemicals.

“The biggest factor here is just understanding that there are a lot of chemicals in there that we are really unable to study at this point,” said Dr. Mateos. “They are out there and they are being marketed very widely.”

The Nova Scotia Lung Association has been advocating all levels of government to crack down when it comes to vaping, in particular, the abundance of flavours and the appeal and advertising to youth.

“We’ve been hearing stories of parents buying vaporizers for their children because they don’t think it’s dangerous or it’s less harmful than cigarettes,” said Robert MacDonald, CEO, and president of the NS Lung Association.

It’s these wrong impressions that could be leading youth to taking up vaping and in the process creating a life long consumer.

The N.S. Lung Association has just undertaken a province-wide study of 400 youth to better understand their consumption habits and they hope to publish the details in a report that will come out soon.


“We’re gathering that information and that data to see why they are doing it, how are they doing it and what’s it costing,” said MacDonald. “And what are the social factors in what they are doing.”

The key for doctor Dr. Mateos is early education and strong governmental legislation to prevent vaping products from reaching kids’ hands in the first place.

“Are we going to follow the same timeline that it took us to put all those regulations in place that end up saving lives with tobacco smoke, are we going to wait all that time?” He asks.

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill says vaping is part of the Grade 6 through 9 health curriculum and says education material will be going home to parents shortly about the risks associated with vaping.

That’s a good step but for health officials and advocates, what they want are tougher regulations.

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