Sudbury

Health concerns about vaping in Sudbury after reported illness and death in United States

Greg Steele is the owner of the True North Vape Shop in Sudbury. He says several of his customers have talked to him about their health concerns after seeing what's happening in the United States.

In the past 20 years, there's been no proof that vaping causes lung disease, says Canadian Vaping Association

Sudbury vapers are concerned about the reports of respiratory illness and even death in the United States. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

Vaping has been under scrutiny since news broke in the United States that hundreds of people are suffering from serious respiratory illness and even death.

Greg Steele is the owner of the True North Vape Shop in Sudbury. He says several of his customers have talked to him about health concerns after hearing about what's happening south of the border.

He says he's been trying to educate his customers with research and reports that say there is no evidence that vaping causes illness.

Steele says he believes the cause of the illness in the U.S. are products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from marijuana that was bought off the street.

"It's vaping marijuana, that's the commonality in all this, it's all black market not purchased at a specialty vape shop, it's purchased off the street, you don't necessarily know what's in it and that's a dangerous proposition for anyone to not know what they're putting into their lungs," he said.

The U.S investigation hasn't found a single device, ingredient or additive that's caused the illness and there hasn't been any confirmed cases in Canada.

However, there are still health concerns in Canada.

We're getting to about 20 years of usage with zero incidents of lung disease.- Darryl Tempest, executive director of the Canadian Vaping Association

"[E-cigarettes] are being presented presently as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes and there's new products continuing to emerge everyday in Canada and around the world and just because they are less harmful does not mean that they are safe," said Theresa Lazinski, a nurse with Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

"Yes, many people do feel at times better when they do quit using conventional cigarettes, however, they are still ingesting chemicals," she said. "As we're seeing in the United States, they are finding that it does affect the lung tissues, the cells and it affects peoples immunity."

Another concern Lazinski has is e-cigarettes ending up in the hands of youth. While e-cigarette specialty shops are 19+, Lazinski says youth and young adults are reporting the highest e-cigarette use among all age groups.

Greg Steele is the owner of the True North Vape Shop in Sudbury. (Jamie-Lee McKenzie/CBC)

"Youth brains are not fully developed until about the age of 25 and the e-juice that's in vaping products may contain nicotine. Nicotine is not only addictive, but it can also affect the way a young person's brain develops and grows," she said. 

E-juice can come in a variety of flavours, from cotton candy to more traditional flavours like mint.

"The concern is when these flavouring chemicals are heated, it may result in increased health harms including irritation of the eyes, throat, the nose, our respiratory tissues and potential pulmonary obstruction," said Lazinski.

However the Canadian Vaping Association says there's been no proof that vaping causes lung disease.

"We're getting to about 20 years of usage with zero incidents of lung disease," said Darryl Tempest, the executive director of the Canadian Vaping Association.

"In terms of the usage of fifty years of someone using the product we won't know until such time, but there is at this point after almost two decades of use, there is still zero incidents other than the specific incidents that are happening in the United States with products that aren't the same products that are sold in Canada," he said.

And when it comes to selling vapes and e-cigarettes, Tempest says there's rules to ensure they don't end up in the hands of youth, such as 19+ stores, no national brand advertising — no advertising to create new users — and anything that's shipped to someone's home must be ID verified.

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