Ontario needs more data before further regulating vaping, says health minister

An Ontario teenager was put on life-support after using a vaping device in what public health officials say is the first reported case of respiratory illness linked to the practice in Canada. Health Minister Christine Elliott has now ordered hospitals and doctors to report all cases of pulminary disease and illness to the ministry.

Christine Elliott says the province needs more information before it decides next steps

A young person holds a vape pen.
The Human Environments Analysis Laboratory Youth Advisory Council (HEALYAC) say it's troubled by the rising prevalence of vaping in the community. (CBC)

Ontario will not make changes to regulations around vaping until the health ministry collects more data, the province's Health Minister says. 

On Wednesday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit announced a London, Ont. teenager was put on life-support after using a vaping device. It is Canada's first reported case of a vaping-related pulmonary illness.

Officials were alerted by a local doctor after the high school student fell ill and was sent to hospital.

"We need to understand whether this is happening with products that people can buy in stores or whether these are off-the-counter things that people are buying on the street. We don't know that yet," Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen.

"And that's one of the critical facts that we need to know about what steps we should then be taking."

The ministry is now requiring hospitals to report all cases of pulminary illness related to vaping. In the London case, Elliott said, "There were no other indications for this illness other than the person vaped every day."

Althought health officials are aware, they are not releasing the brand the teen had been vaping.

Health Minister Christine Elliott is requiring all hospitals to report any pulminary illnesses related to vaping. (David Donnelly/CBC)

"This is something that we take very seriously as a ministry, and that is the reason why I issued the order yesterday... so we can fully understand the scope of the problem in Ontario and then take appropriate action," said Elliott.

The minister was unable to provide a timeframe on how long the government would need to collect data before it decides if it should take regulatory steps, however she said the ministry would act quickly.

"We're looking at getting the information that we need to give to officials so that we can work on solutions right away. I don't want to have us lose a young person to this pulminary illness. We need to take action swiftly."

But Elliott also admitted, "Until we really know the scope of the problem here in Ontario, I can't really speculate  on what we should be doing."

Elliott acknowledged other jurisdictions have already banned certain products and flavours. India, she pointed out, has banned e-cigarettes altogether.

"Once we understand the full scope of the problem and what the triggers are and causes are for the problem, where it's coming from, we will definitely need to take whatever legal or regulatory action that needs to be taken to protect the health of our young people," said Elliott.

Awareness campaigns, explained Elliott, will become increasingly important. "I know there are some young people who have been vaping who are experiencing some health concerns but don't want to tell their parents because they're afraid their parents will be upset with them."


Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, Reporter

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna. Most recently she hosted the morning show at CBC London. Contact Rebecca at or follow @rebeccazandberg on Twitter.