The B.C. provincial government recently announced new measures to crack down on vaping following over 2,000 cases of vaping-related illnesses in the United States, and eight vaping-related illnesses in Canada – three of which were reported in B.C.
The new regulations will increase taxes on vaping products from seven percent to 20 percent. Regulations have also been set which limit the overall nicotine content of vape products to 20 milligrams per millimetre, based on rules in other jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom.
Steve Elkiw, owner of Bayside Vapes in Ladysmith welcomes steps to limit youth vaping, but says he doesn’t believe that taxing vape products is the answer.
“I think limiting access is an important thing, but I think taxing something that hasn’t proven to be dangerous – like in the same way that smoking is – is kind of a slippery slope if you ask me,” Elkiw said. “I see no reason at all that young people should start vaping. It’s a tool to get you off of something that’s 100 percent certain going to kill you.”
Elkiw said he’s not worried about the increased tax impacting his business, as most of his customers are former smokers who swapped to vaping. Many smokers swap to regimented vape programs and gradually step down their nicotine levels to eventually quit.
Although most smokers are looking to quit, Elkiw does notice that younger people are often the ones who come in looking for high level nicotine products.
“I definitely find the younger population is more in to the higher nicotine levels. That’s why I think the nicotine cap is a suitable deterrent,” Elkiw said.
Dr. Shannon Waters, Medical Health Officer for the Cowichan region said agrees that vaping is a method of harm reduction for ‘entrenched’ smokers – smokers who have tried to quit and been unsuccessful using other methods.
“When these products were first becoming available, that ability to be a harm reduction means was very much talked about and anticipated. With these coming out into the market, there’s another population now – the nicotine naive – especially youth, who are attracted to these products,” Waters said.
Youth who vape are at an increased risk of developing nicotine addictions. The exposure to nicotine can also affect overall brain development in youth. Much of what is known on nicotine exposure is based on cigarettes. Waters said that the full effects of vaping are still unknown.
“We don’t have a lot of experience treating the type of nicotine addiction we’re seeing with some of these vaping products from the past, because they deliver nicotine in higher quantities much faster than cigarettes can, so that’s one concern,” Waters said.
Waters is also concerned about chemicals which have been found in vape liquids, such as formaldehyde, and acrolein – both of which are known carcinogens. Metals like nickel, tin, and aluminum have also been found in vape liquids. Many vape liquids also contain propylene glycol. There is currently no evidence that suggests whether inhaling propylene glycol through vape products is hazardous to health or not.
“These the types of concerns that are out there. We don’t have any long term studies to see what the effects are, so that’s why we want to watch this very closely, and put out messages around the consequences of vaping now, so that youth or any users, are taking a risk while we don’t know what the full effects are,” Waters said.
To better educate youth about the risks of the vaping, Health has launched a Consider the Consequences of Vaping Awareness Tour. The tour includes resources and information for students, teachers, and school administrators about vaping, nicotine addiction, and possible health impacts.
As for lung illnesses related to vaping, Waters said that those illnesses are being tracked in B.C. and across the country – but it is not clear if nicotine vaping products are the direct cause of the illnesses.
“We have some investigations actively happening in the province to see if this is in fact occurring. As you might imagine, there are a number of questions and things to look in to when we’re determining if something is actually a result of vaping. People might be exposed to a number of different things – we have to try and delineate that out,” Waters said.
Waters said that vaping was being discussed in the medical community, but the explosion of vape related illnesses has led to active investigations on vaping. There are now mechanisms in place where emergency room personnel are trained to ask questions around vaping to any one who comes in with respiratory issues.