Nfld. & Labrador

E-cigarette use up among N.L.'s youth, according to government numbers

The provincial government has released new data from a survey that suggests nearly half of the province's students from Grade 7-12 have tried vaporizers and e-cigarettes — up 38 per cent from 2016-17.

Anti-smoking group launches latest effort to curb use among teens

Government's latest numbers puts Newfoundland and Labrador above the national average for youth who have tried e-cigarettes and vaping products. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Almost half of the province's students from Grade 7 to 12 have used vaporizers and e-cigarettes — more than any province except Saskatchewan, and well above the national average.

That's up from 38 per cent that said they used the products when surveyed in 2016-17, according to the latest data from the federal government outlined in the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey.

"We're leading the pack, unfortunately," said Kevin Coady, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco.

"A couple of provinces are just a step behind us, but if you look at the national average, for example, the national average for 'ever tried' is 34 per cent, and we're at 47 per cent."

The group lobbies to keep e-cigarettes away from children. That effort includes campaigns to get government to regulate the products under the same umbrella as tobacco, and youth programming to teach students about the dangers of using e-cigarettes and related products. 

"It's like the new toy on the market, not realizing where it might take them," Coady told CBC Radio's On The Go

With recent illnesses linked to vaping use popping up across Canada and the United States, Coady said they're jumping at the opportunity to do more. 

Latest effort

On Wednesday ACT, in partnership with the provincial government, launched its newest effort to keep young people from picking up vaping, but this time the group is targeting parents. 

The information campaign seeks to educate adults about the risks of vaping among youth. ACT hopes it'll spark conversation with their kids.

The province kicked in $75,000 to help the group increase the frequency and duration of the campaign, in order to reach more parents, but details about what it will involve are still vague.

Plans include a social media presence, webinars, billboards and teacher-led presentations.

"We're not totally focusing on some of the diseases and some of the lung problems that have surfaced, because a lot of connection there goes to the use of cannabis, and that's a different story," Coady said.

In December, the provincial government said it would not allow cannabis vape products to be introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador, pending more research.

The government said reports of lung diseases associated with vaping need more analysis by experts to figure out the exact cause, but many of the cases involve vaping cannabis.

"But just the fact that young people want to use these vapes very regularly, and not even realizing sometimes how much nicotine is in them. The nicotine in some of the pods that you can get your hands on and use can be equal to a couple of packs of regular cigarettes."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story referenced data from 2016-2017 about how many students were using vaporizers and e-cigarettes. At that time, 38 per cent responded yes. That number has since increased to 47 per cent.
    Feb 14, 2020 11:12 AM NT

With files from On The Go

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