Emily Wilson, News Reporter
The Ontario government announced a ban on advertisements at convenience stores and gas stations starting January 2020 in a bid to stem the rise in youth vaping.
The Oct. 25 announcement in a news release stated the ban “will help prevent youth from being exposed and influenced by promotion in retail settings.”
David Jensen, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said the Ontario government is reducing exposure due to the increase of youth vaping by 74 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
But experts feel the ban is inadequate.
Christina Sperling, senior director at The Ontario Lung Association, said the organization has been pushing the government to make changes toward e-cigarette use for some time.
“The ban is a step in the right direction, however it’s not enough,” she said.
Sperling said there are many other places vaping advertisements are available, such as billboards and social media.
Mimicking the Tobacco Act by limiting all promotions and removing flavouring would further assist in preventing aspects that make vaping attractive to youth, she said.
“Essentially everything that happened in the tobacco industry, we would like to see happen with e-cigarettes and vaping,” Sperling said.
As far as health concerns go, “we don’t know a lot of what it does to your body yet,” she said.
Sperling said it took decades to understand the effects of tobacco use on the body. Vaping has not been around long enough to do the same.
Evidence showing vaping is safer than cigarettes does not mean that there is no harm to the body. There are still many toxic substances being inhaled, she said.
Propylene glycol is a common chemical found in vape products is also used to produce polyester and as an anti-freeze, according to a study by UCSF Department of Medicine.
A study published in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, titled What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes? found significant damage related to vape use.
Jensen said youth vaping can have harmful impacts on the brain, affecting memory, concentration and brain development.
Matthew Wood, a Culinary Management student at Humber College, is not concerned about the health effects on his body and feels vaping is much safer than the cigarettes he used to smoke.
“There aren’t any places that tell me vaping is bad,” he said.
Sperling said many e-cigarettes on the market contain nicotine, the addictive component of cigarettes and vaping. New users could move on to cigarettes due to the levels of nicotine used.
She said many youth and adults assume e-cigarettes are harmless, thinking there are no health risks associated with vaping.
“We just want people to educate themselves,” she said, including people like Wood who uses vape products every day.
The 20-year-old believes only black market vape products contain harmful chemicals not tested for inhalation.
“Products from the black market can’t be trusted to be safe. Those ones have the chemicals that are bad for you,” he said.
Vaping is legal in Canada and age restrictions are placed on products but there are many ways teenagers can acquire e-cigarettes, Sperling said. Vape devices can be purchased online by providing an age above 18 or finding older friends to get products.
“I think people who are purchasing these products underage are not doing it in [convenience stores and gas stations],” Sperling said. “They’re doing it online.”
Jensen said the ministry plans to monitor the situation and will take action, if needed, to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.