Nova Scotia

Health expert says more regulation needed around vaping

After the first Canadian case of a vaping-related illness was reported last week, there's been a lot of talk about the potential dangers of the trendy smoking alternative.

'There's a whole lot we don't know,' says IWK pediatric respirologist

Dr. Dimas Mateos, a pediatric respirologist with the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, said many chemicals used in vape and e-cigarette juices have been tested for consumption but not inhalation. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

After the first Canadian case of a vaping-related illness was reported last week, there's been a lot of talk about the potential dangers of the trendy smoking alternative.

But despite its widespread popularity, there's a lot we don't know about vaping.

What we do know, said Dr. Dimas Mateos, a pediatric respirologist with the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, is there is no regulation around the devices or the chemicals used in them.

"There is no agency that is in charge of overseeing that the label says exactly what it has," Mateos told CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning.

Some of the chemicals being used have never been properly tested, Mateos said, and some have been tested for safety, but only if ingested and were never designed to be inhaled.

Vapes and e-cigarettes work by heating the liquid inside, which can change its chemical compound, said Mateos. (CBC)

A tobacco cigarette contains about 600 different products, Mateos said, but that can change into over 7,000 different compounds when it's burned. He said with thousands of e-cigarette flavours made up of different chemicals, it's important to think about what happens to them when they're heated and their chemical compounds change.

Lung disease related to flavouring compounds is not new to the world of vaping, Mateos said. The issue was identified through workers in popcorn and coffee bean plants, who had to wear masks to protect themselves, he said.

"Now we're using a lot of similar compounds in them, and we are breathing them in directly," Mateos said.

Something that people should really be worried about, Mateos said, is how these products are ending up in the hands of children and teenagers.

"They don't belong there. There is an age limit for sales," he said. "So if children are having them, then an adult is giving them to a child because they think they are safe."

Mateos said it's concerning that so many people under 19 years of age vape or use e-cigarettes, because they're not of legal age to buy them in stores. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

A tip sheet for parents about how to talk to their children about vaping was made available to parents through the Halifax Regional Centre for Education's website. Mateos said with an issue as widespread as this, education is a good place to start.

"A lot of safety concerns we have can be addressed at home, I think, by just understanding that there's a whole lot we don't know about this," he said.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey said vaping and its potential dangers are 'an area of interest' to the province. (CBC)

A group of Canadian health organizations recently called on the federal parties to regulate the e-cigarette and vaping industry.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey said it's "an area of interest" for the province.

He said the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, has been in talks throughout the province to monitor the conditions and respiratory illnesses that may relate to vaping.

"I'm certainly confident they'll provide advice and recommendations," Delorey said.

The minister said Strang indicated it's not just a provincial concern, but a national one that public health officials across the country are looking at.

Last week the first case of vaping related illness was reported in Canada. In response this province issued a pamphlet to parents titled "Talking to Your Teen About Vaping." Dr. Dimas Mateos is a pediatric respiroloigst with the IWK Health Centre. 6:59


With files from Information Morning


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.