A high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus. File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Health Canada to educate teens on health risks of vaping

Officials have long cautioned that nicotine poses an elevated risk to youth

Health Canada is ramping up efforts to warn young Canadians about the potential risks associated with vaping, the agency said Thursday.

Spokeswoman Maryse Durette said the government body has launched a multi-phase campaign to tackle what it sees as an increasing problem among youth.

“The vaping market is evolving rapidly, with the regular introduction of new products into Canada,” Durette said in a statement outlining the planned campaign.

”We are aware of both anecdotal information and unpublished research showing increases in the rate at which Canadian youth are trying and using vaping products.”

Durette said the first phase of the campaign got underway last month and featured paid and social media ads urging parents to start discussing vaping health risks with their kids.

READ MORE: Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

The next step, set to launch next month, is aimed squarely at the teens themselves. Durette said the campaign will feature both paid ads and hands-on learning events in high schools and community venues targeting youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Social media influencers will also be involved to help reach parents and teens alike, she added.

Health Canada said much of the research around youth vaping is still in its early stages, adding it could not provide firm figures for Canadian vaping rates. But Durette said both unpublished research as well as international data paint an alarming picture.

A study released in the U.S. last month prompted a warning from the country’s top physician amid reports that e-cigarettes and other vaping devices were undermining decades of declines in tobacco use.

A federally funded University of Michigan study that’s been tracking teen substance use for more than four decades documented an unprecedented spike in the number of teens using e-cigarettes. The study, released last month, found the number of teens using the devices last year had doubled from the one before — the largest single-year increase in the survey’s 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.

Separate U.S. government research found an estimated 3.6 million U.S. teens are now using e-cigarettes, representing one in five high school students and one in 20 middle schoolers.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices have been sold in the U.S. since 2007, growing into a US$6.6-billion business. Most devices heat a flavoured nicotine solution into an inhalable vapour.

While research on the effects of vaping is still taking shape, officials in Canada and abroad have long cautioned that nicotine poses an elevated risk to youth.

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