Study finds dramatic 74% increase in youth vaping in Canada

20 June 2019

Ottawa -

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is calling for immediate government action to address a significant and troubling increase in youth vaping in Canada. The increase in rates was revealed in a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

The study, led by Professor David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, found that among those 16-19 years old, vaping increased by a stunning 74% from 2017 to 2018, from 8.4% to 14.6%. The study was conducted in August/September 2017 and again in August/September 2018.  

The study presents the first data since the major tobacco companies launched and heavily advertised their own e-cigarette brands in Canada following the May 2018 adoption of Bill S-5 which legalized e-cigarettes with nicotine. The study results are consistent with indications from across Canada of high schools struggling to respond to a rapid increase in youth vaping.

Evidence indicates that youth who use e-cigarettes with nicotine may become addicted and are at increased risk of becoming smokers.

The study also found that cigarette smoking among 16-19 year-olds in the same 2017 to 2018 time period increased by 45%, from 10.7% to 15.5%. Prior surveys up to and including 2017 had shown a continuing decline in youth smoking. However, these concerning results indicate that youth smoking may now be increasing.

“E-cigarettes are supposed to be for adult smokers who have been unable to quit,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, CCS. “But the results of this new study regarding youth trends are of tremendous concern. Given the progress that has been made to reduce youth smoking, we must avoid a new generation of teenagers becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping products.”

CCS urges provinces to increase the minimum age to 21 for the sale of both tobacco and vaping products, as 16 US states have already done. Provinces should also prohibit the sale of flavoured vaping products except in adult-only specialty vape shops. Alberta and Saskatchewan, the only provinces without legislation on vaping products, should immediately adopt comprehensive legislation. Ontario should ban vaping product advertising in convenience stores and other retailers, as seven other provinces have done.

CCS recommends that the federal government move quickly to adopt regulations restricting the advertising of vaping products, ensuring regulations are at least as restrictive as advertising for cannabis, including medical cannabis. The federal government should also adopt restrictions on the use of flavours in vaping products, along with other regulatory measures.

“Current measures to prevent youth vaping are clearly not working,” adds Cunningham. “Governments need to take action now to reduce both youth vaping and youth smoking.”

The rates of youth vaping and smoking cited from the study refer to past 30 day use, which is the common measure for smoking prevalence. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, killing nearly 45,000 Canadians each year, including 30% of all cancer deaths.

 Canada-wide, smokers can call the number on cigarette packages 1-866-366-3667 to receive proven and personalized support to quit smoking. The Canadian Cancer Society operates the quitline in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon through Smokers’ Helpline and in Quebec through ligne j’ARRÊTE.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:
Rob Cunningham
Senior Policy Analyst
Canadian Cancer Society
Phone: (613) 565-2522 ext 4981