Vaping: clearing the air about hazards

Vaping by using electronic cigarettes is spreading and a growing concern by Alberta Health Services, other health authorities and medical professionals.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Students at Prairie River Junior High School in High Prairie learned about the negative health hazards of vaping during presentations Feb. 3-4 by Alberta Health Services.

“The long-term effects of vaping are still unknown,” says Jenny- Leigh Solomon, AHS health promotions facilitator for the High Prairie area.

“Today’s vapers are tomorrow’s test subjects. Don’t be an experiment.”

Roxine Weaver, also from AHS Addictions, also spoke to students.

“It’s smoking, that’s what it is,” Solomon says. “It’s a different way of smoking.”

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that have a chamber filled with chemicals, an AHS factsheet describes.

Heat from the battery turns the chemicals into a vapour.

E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking but they are still harmful in many ways. Nicotine affects brain development, changing how the brain works in youth and young adults.

Chemicals in second-hand vapour can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women.

Vaping is a growing concern for AHS and other health authorities. Statistics show a 74 per cent increase in vaping among youth aged 16-19 years in Canada from 2017-18, jumping to 14.6 per cent from 8.4 per cent, Solomon says.

Cigarette smoking in the same period increased 45 per cent to reach 15.5 per cent of youth in this age group from 10.7 per cent a year earlier.

Surveys before 2018 showed a consistent decline in youth smoking.

Records also show almost one-half of the population in the High Prairie region are actively smoking, vaping and using other tobacco products.

“The smoking prevalence in Alberta is 17.9 per cent, which is well above the national average of 15.1 per cent,” Solomon says.

“In the [AHS] North Zone, we’re even higher at 23.7 per cent, and in High Prairie, 47.6 per cent.”

The new strategies being used by big tobacco companies to target youth involve celebrity supported ads, fruit/candy flavour imagery, and statements to support vaping as a safer way of smoking, she says.

“However, ‘safer’ doesn’t imply no harm,” Solomon says.

Diacetyl and vitamin E acetate are two of the current additives that are associated with the cause of serious vaping-related lung injury in Canada, she explains.

“Aside from lung injury, youth are especially susceptible to addiction, given that full brain development isn’t achieved until about the age of 25,” Solomon says.

Other e-liquid ingredients include vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, chemical flavourings and nicotine.

Early studies show that using e-cigarettes may help some people stop smoking, say information provided by AHS.

Vapers and smokers can quit with a few simple steps.

Talk to your physician about ways to help you quit. It may include counselling and over- the-counter products approved by Health Canada, like nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, an inhaler or prescription medications.

Support and information is also available from AHS. Call or phone AlbertaQuits at [1-866] 710-QUIT [7848] or visit the website at albertaquits.ca.

Health hazards of vaping were presented at Prairie River Junior High School in High Prairie by Alberta Health Services on Feb 3-4. Effects of vaping on the brain are explained by Jenny-Leigh Solomon, AHS promotions facilitator for the High Prairie area.

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