British Columbia

B.C. considers toughening laws in response to teen vaping, says health minister

B.C.'s health minister says the government is working on a comprehensive response to teens illegally vaping, amid a surge in the reported number of vaping-related lung diseases.

'There's a strong reason for concern,' says Adrian Dix

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix's remarks came the same day Ontario announced the first reported case of illness linked to vaping in Canada. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

B.C.'s health minister says the government is working on a comprehensive response to teens illegally vaping, amid a surge in the reported number of vaping-related lung diseases across North America.

Adrian Dix said on Wednesday the province will look at toughening laws, boosting enforcement and educating teens and parents about the risks surrounding vaping, although he did not offer specifics.

Dix's remarks came the same day Ontario announced the first reported case of illness linked to vaping in Canada. An Ontario teenager was put on life support after using a vaping device, but is now recovering.

In the U.S., there have been hundreds of severe respiratory illnesses linked to vaping.

"There's a strong reason for concern," Dix told reporters.

"We need regulatory action. We need education action and resources in the hands of people so they understand the risks."

In B.C., it's illegal to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 19, but Dix said it's still happening.

A 2018 B.C. teen health survey found that 21 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12, reported vaping with nicotine in the past month. That number grew from 16 per cent in 2013.

More cases expected in Canada

Part of the problem is that some teens don't think vaping is harmful at all, health officials say.

Dr. Milan Khara, an addiction medicine physician with Vancouver Coastal Health, said vaping-related advertising should be regulated, similar to tobacco.

There should also be rules around access to flavours, such as mango and bubble gum, which are used to entice youth, Khara said.

"The immediate challenge is to regulate the product in a way that will further reduce the appeal to youth while keeping the product available to adult smokers," he said.

On Wednesday, Ontario's health minister ordered all public hospitals to report severe pulmonary diseases related to vaping.

B.C.'s top health officer Bonnie Henry told CBC News last week that the province has sent notifications to clinicians across the country asking them to report cases if they come across them.

"We are very likely to be seeing some cases show up now that people are looking for it," she said.

Henry said symptoms can start as nausea, vomiting and upset stomach, and progress to shortness of breath, cough, and inflammation of lungs, which make it difficult to breathe.

The cause, she said, is likely a toxin in the vaping products that produces inflammation in the lungs.

"Your body's reaction to that is a very severe pneumonia."

People experiencing any symptoms should go to their doctor, Henry said.

With files from Lien Yeung

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