A construction worker exhales after using a vaping device while eating lunch on the steps at Robson Square, in Vancouver, on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A construction worker exhales after using a vaping device while eating lunch on the steps at Robson Square, in Vancouver, on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Youth vaping rates levelled off in 2020, while number of smokers declines

Stress reduction ranked highly among young Canadians’ reasons for vaping

Vaping rates among Canadian youth appear to have plateaued in 2020, a Statistics Canada study suggests, which one researcher calls a promising sign that the next generation could be kicking the nicotine habit.

According to a report released Wednesday, about one in seven young Canadians reported vaping on a regular basis last year, a level roughly on par with the data the agency collected in 2019.

Researchers found 14 per cent of teenagers aged 15 to 19 had vaped in the previous month, and the prevalence among young adults aged 20 to 24 was 13 per cent.

By contrast, the data shows only three per cent of adults aged 25 or older say they used e-cigarettes within the previous month.

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond said the numbers indicate that the surge in youth vaping in recent years could be tapering off because of stricter regulations, rising awareness of the health risks and lifestyle changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It looks like we may have reached the peak of youth vaping,” Hammond said. “I would expect that vaping will continue to decline among young people, and if that happens in parallel with the continued reduction in smoking, then that’s very good news for everybody.”

But one anti-smoking advocate is urging governments to redouble their efforts to tackle youth vaping, because while rates may have levelled off, they remain too high.

“It’s good that the rates aren’t going up. But at this point, we still have over 400,000 youth who are vaping across the country,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.

“What’s frustrating here is that this epidemic of youth vaping continues to rage, and that governments are not attacking the problem as quickly and strongly as they should be.”

The numbers in Statistics Canada’s 2020 Tobacco and Nicotine Survey are based on the responses of 8,112 Canadians collected between December 2020 and January 2021.

Last year’s smoking and vaping patterns can also in part be attributed to shifts brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, but the impacts aren’t clearcut, Hammond said.

About one in 10 Canadians reported being regular cigarette smokers in 2020, but prevalence declined overall compared to 2019, according to the study. Young adults aged 20 to 24 saw the biggest dip, with eight per cent saying they were smokers in 2020 compared 13 per cent the previous year.

For some, lockdown has allowed more opportunities to light up at home, he said. And while many people have used the pandemic as an opportunity to cultivate healthier habits, others are turning to familiar vices to cope, he added.

Stress reduction ranked highly among young Canadians’ reasons for vaping, with 24 per cent of participants aged 20 to 24 citing it as their primary motivation, a 10 per cent jump compared to 2019.

Hammond said the shuttering of schools in many parts of the country has cut many young people off from the influence of their peers, who often act as e-cigarette suppliers. Moreover, he said, it’s more difficult for kids to sneak a puff while stuck at home with their parents.

“For young people, there’s probably a greater likelihood that they would reduce both vaping and smoking. Because again, you’re not with your buddies,” said Hammond. “It’s just a lot less cool to be smoking on the back porch with your mom.”

Hammond said the spread of a respiratory illness may also be making people more conscious of the health risks linked to e-cigarettes, including vaping-related lung disease.

He said the Statistics Canada findings could also signal the success of government strategies to curb soaring youth vaping rates after Ottawa opened the door for international products to enter the Canadian market in 2018.

Since then, both federal and provincial authorities have introduced tougher restrictions to reverse the troubling trend.

In December, the federal government proposed to reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in vaping products as part of greater efforts to reduce their appeal to young Canadians.

Health Canada also enforced a ban on vaping advertisements in places young people can access also took effect last year.

In a statement Wednesday, the federal regulator said it is considering further measures to deter youth vaping, including restricting flavours.

Many provinces have implemented their own anti-vaping measures, including increasing taxes, restricting the sale of youth-friendly flavours and cutting nicotine content.

READ MORE: B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

vaping

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From left to right: Vicki Barta, Bruce Ormond, Greg Heide, Gord McInnis, and Charles Harman rehearse via zoom for the upcoming radio play, “Visitor from Planet Zoltan”. (Submitted photo)
Radio plays prove successful for Ladysmith Little Theatre, four more in production

Ladysmith Little Theatre pivoted to producing radio plays during the pandemic

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees in Oyster Bay

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Ladysmith’s Taylor Walters received the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and is hard at work pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Human-Computer Interaction at Quest University. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith teen receives Terry Fox Humanitarian Award for advocating equal access to STEM opportunities

‘Different people think differently and that’s so important for innovation,’ Taylor Walters says

A vehicle is totalled after a driver crashed into the side of a tow truck outside Central Island Towing. (Cole Schisler photo)
Car totalled after colliding with the back of a tow truck in Ladysmith

Nobody was injured, but repairs on the tow truck are expected to cost thousands of dollars

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo hospital experiencing another COVID-19 outbreak

Three patients tested positive for the virus in NRGH’s high-intensity rehab unit

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

Most Read