More young people taking up vaping instead of smoking, research shows

New research shows there is little evidence e-cigarettes are prompting young people to start smoking. And while e-cigarettes may be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, study co-author David Hammond says, they’re also more appealing to young people.

Marketing, sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine raises concerns for youth in Canada, study says

Vaping is on the rise among young people, according to new research co-authored by a University of Waterloo professor. (Regis Duvignau /Reuters)

New research shows there is little evidence e-cigarettes are prompting young people to start smoking.

Fewer young people have reported smoking cigarettes since vaping has increased in popularity, according to a study published in the journal Tobacco Control.

And while e-cigarettes may be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, study co-author David Hammond says they're also more appealing to young people.

Hammond, a professor at the University of Waterloo, says the use of e-cigarettes by young people has gone up quite a bit in the last year.

"Kids see vaping products as really different from smoking," he said.

"It's seen much more sort of as a lifestyle, positive thing. So the social norms around vaping are a lot more positive and accepting than they are for smoking."

David Hammond is a professor in the School of Public Health & Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

More e-cigarettes containing nicotine on the market in Canada

E-cigarettes are ostensibly targeted toward adults smokers trying to quit, but some companies like U.S.-based Juul have come under fire for their marketing tactics, which critics say target young people.

In Ontario, recent changes to the Smoke Free Ontario Act have allowed companies to advertise vaping products in convenience stores.

Hammond says that's a problem, particularly as more e-cigarettes containing higher levels of nicotine are being sold in Canada.

"It's a bad timing that we have these new products at the same time as they are being widely marketed," he said.

"What we need to do is figure out how to target these products at adult smokers and make them less appealing to kids. And you know, having a poster next to a Slurpee machine promoting these products is probably not the best way to do that."

U.S.-based company Juul has been criticized for marketing its e-cigarette containing nicotine to young people. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

Hammond wants to see government policy that protects young people from being pulled in by marketing.

He points to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has proposed new regulations for the industry in response to concerns about rising teenage use of e-cigarettes.That includes preventing the sale of flavoured nicotine to young people.

Last week, Juul announced it is stopping the sale of some of its e-cigarette flavours in U.S. stores, in anticipation of the crackdown.

"It raises questions about Health Canada and similar measures up here," Hammond said.

He hopes his research will also encourage the provincial and federal governments to reconsider allowing marketing and advertising of e-cigarettes.