John Oyston brings us tan update on Canada's latest youth vaping statistics, and the impact flavour bans could have on smoking rates.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:54 - Youth vaping declining in Canada 2:01 - Flavour bans in some Canadian provinces 4:54 - "Flavour bans are illogical beyond belief" 6:46 - Are disposable vapes a problem? 8:57 - Crackdown on vape sales to minors 10:24 - Closing remarks
Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV.
A recent study run in Canada has shown that the proportion of Canadian teenagers regularly
using e-cigarettes ranks among the highest in the world. But other data show that vaping
rates have fallen among Canadian youth. What's causing these contradictions? And where is
this misinformation coming from?
To determine the facts and gather some answers, we asked John Oyston, a Canadian anesthesiologist
who works on smoking cessation advocacy and knowledge translation related to safer nicotine
products for people who smoke. Hi John, thank you for joining us today. Can you explain
to us where this misinformation is coming from?
Yeah, I think it's, I don't think you can compare different surveys that are done using
different methodologies on different groups of people in different age groups. So I think
the only thing you can fairly do is compare like with like. So if you stick with one study,
like CTNS, then you find out that vaping is falling. It was, the past 30 day vaping
was 15.1% in 2019, 14.4% in winter 2021-22, and 12.9% in the winter of 21-22. So that's
a progressive decline. And if you choose another survey like the CSTADS survey in 2018-2019,
that reported a 20.2% past 30 day use. And the most recent one in 2021-22 says there's
a 16.8% past 30 day use. So both those surveys are on parallel tracks and they're both showing
that at the moment vaping is certainly not going up and it appears to be slightly declining
in Canada amongst youth.
The latest information says that the government is planning to ban unflavored e-cigarettes.
Why are these products so important?
So in Canada, although there is a federal health agency, Health Canada, health is actually
a concern of each province and each province, like each state in America, is somewhat independent.
So in some states, particularly some provinces, particularly in Atlantic Canada, they've put
bans on flavors. The federal government was proposing a flavor ban. Their arguments in
favor of the flavor ban were very illogical and were highly criticized. And I thought
until recently that that whole thing was on the back burner and they hadn't actually
decided to proceed with it. And they're getting a lot of criticism from some groups because
they weren't proceeding with it. But my understanding is now it's still up for discussion within
Health Canada and they haven't made a decision yet.
So the problem is that if you look at how flavor bans do, is that they're not particularly
effective at reducing teen vaping and they increase cigarette smoking. So the last conference
I was at, there was a big presentation looking at what's happened in the various states in
the USA. And they were able to show quite conclusively that where there was a flavor
ban, cigarette smoking went up. And particularly it went up amongst those types of cigarettes
that were flavored by young people. Where there were restrictions on flavors, cigarette
smoking also went up, but by not the same degree. So it seems there's a fairly clear
evidence that if we restrict flavors in vape, we make vaping less attractive. Because to
be honest, vaping is supposed to be flavored. Nobody drinks unflavored alcohol and almost
nobody uses unflavored vape. So if you take the flavorings away or you restrict them to
artificial tobacco flavoring, then it's going to be less popular. And if it's less popular,
what are people going to do? And the people who enjoy using nicotine or are habituated
to using nicotine are going to switch to cigarette smoking. So I think it's incredibly unfortunate
that whilst I can understand politicians feeling the need to do something about youth vaping,
what they really need to do is to begin by properly enforcing the actual laws that already
exist. So in Canada, at the federal national level, there's an age limit of 18. And in the
province I live in, the age limit is 19. And in one province, the age limit is 21.
But although those age limits exist, they're not enforced. And most people report that it's very
easy for them to find somebody who will buy vape from them or they will for them, or they can get
vape through informal sources or they can buy it online. So we really need to strongly enforce the
existing law. So that's the first thing that we need to do to protect young people from vaping.
We need to actually make sure that people get prosecuted for breaking that law.
So what are the main reasons driving youth vaping?
Yeah, sure. So again, according to this most latest CADS study, the most popular reason
is to relax or to relieve tension, which is equated by 20.4% of people. And that's totally
logical. It's what we know about nicotine. For decades, people have relieved stress by going to
a cigarette and taking a few puffs on a fag. So it's not surprising that people are doing the
same with nicotine vaping. About 12% say that it makes them feel good, which again, is totally
understandable. And only 7.4% of them are saying that they vape for the flavours. So the flavours
are part of the mix. But it seems very unrealistic to assume that banning flavours is going to just
make people stop vaping. And if you only allow tobacco flavour, which is an artificial flavour
that's added to vape just like anything else, then maybe they're just going to switch to tobacco
flavoured vape, which really doesn't help anybody at all. Meanwhile, for the cigarette smokers who
are looking to quit, it's unfair to make somebody who wants to quit cigarette smoking have to use
a product that is tobacco flavoured in order to get the nicotine that they want.
You know, this is just, it's ridiculous. It would be like
trying to treat alcoholism by giving somebody a whisky flavoured medicine.
So the whole system is just illogical beyond belief. And I really can't understand why Health
Canada is proceeding. And also the province of Quebec is proceeding, looking towards a flavour
ban. It seems to me that the politicians feel anxious to do something. And this is something
that they can do. If they wanted to ban anything, maybe they should ban disposable vapes. That would
perhaps be a useful thing to do. But a flavour ban is just going to drive people into other
products and particularly into cigarette smoking. You've just mentioned disposable vapes. We know
that these products have gained popularity among young people in some countries, including Canada.
Do you think using these products is a problem? It's a problem because they are just so prevalent,
they're so easy to use, they're so cheap, they're so available in convenience stores,
it doesn't require really any skill or knowledge to sell or use a disposable vape.
And they're cheap. So it's interesting, most countries, for example, will ban the sale
of single cigarettes, because that makes it too easy for people to buy cigarettes with their
pocket money. And maybe we should be looking at the same with vapes. Maybe we shouldn't allow
the use and sale of single disposable vapes. The other thing is in Canada, we're looking at a ban
on single-use plastics. So we're looking at a ban on things like plastic bags. So it seems to me that
single-use vapes should be in the same category. So they're bad in many ways. They're being marketed
to children and they're attractive to children. And it's something that kids can afford with some
pocket money or some money that they get from working in retail. And also they just create a
ridiculously large amount of waste that's very difficult to deal with. It's very conspicuous,
it's often brightly coloured. It's a really toxic mix of nicotine and other chemicals, plus human
saliva, plus lead, chromium, and also lithium, which is a valuable resource. And we shouldn't be
dividing lithium up into small pieces and throwing it all around the countryside. We need it for
the car batteries and for other things. So although some cigarette smokers like disposable
vapes, for quitting smoking, you don't really need them and they're probably not the best product to
use. You'd be better off and it would be cheaper to use a refillable product-based system. So for
people who are looking at a way to quit smoking, disposables are convenient, but they're not
essential. But for kids, it seems to be an easy way to start vaping and it's just ridiculously wasteful.
Canada, like some other countries, already has regulations regarding nicotine products.
Why is the government still creating new laws in this area, while existing regulation goes
unenforced? Well, that's a very interesting question and I don't have an answer, except
that it takes time and money. It's relatively hard to go around individual vape shops or to go to
individual convenience stores to check on what they're doing. That requires employing people to
go and do this work. And particularly during COVID, I think they pretty much gave up on it
because they were too busy doing other things and it was much more hard to keep track on things
during COVID. But what I would love to see is some high-profile prosecutions. I've seen in Britain,
you know, people who repeatedly sell to minors being put in the back of a police car in handcuffs
and driven away. I think we really need to see that in Canada and maybe in other countries to
make people realize that this actually is a crime and it's a serious crime. And if you
commit the crime, you'll get punished. And if you keep on repeating the crime, you'll end up in jail.
And whilst I don't think that you can get to every single case, at least if you had a few
high-profile repeat offenders and you treated them very severely, then that would create a
lot of publicity and it would make other people very much more cautious about breaking the law.
Thank you, John. We are looking forward to seeing you in Warsaw at GFN 23. That's all for today.
Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our GFN TV podcast. And don't forget to register for
the Global Forum on Nicotine Conference. GFN 2023 starts on June 21st and runs to the 24th.
Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.