Heart / Lung Research

Vaping – is a new generation getting addicted to nicotine?

It’s a trend that is dramatically on the rise. It’s vaping, the inhaling technique used with e-cigarettes. And with widespread availability, delicious-sounding flavours like mango and vanilla, and discreet, USB-style devices for inhaling – the vaping trend, especially among youth, has health-care professionals increasingly worried.

Dr. Chris Carlsten, Principal Investigator at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital, said, “The #1 biggest concern with the e-cigarette trend is that a whole new generation of people, and particularly youth, are getting addicted to nicotine. And we don’t know with certainty yet if this is could be a gateway to smoking cigarettes.”

Nicotine poses higher risk to youth

While research on vaping and its long term effects is still taking shape, officials in Canada and abroad have long cautioned that nicotine poses an elevated risk to youth. This year, Health Canada is ramping up efforts to warn young Canadians about the potential risks associated with vaping. A national survey conducted by The New England Journal of Medicine revealed a large increase in nicotine vaping among high school students; more than 20% of 12th-graders reported that they vaped nicotine in 2018. You must be 19 to buy e-cigarettes and vaping supplies.

Continued Dr. Carlsten, “Another big concern is the fact that nicotine itself has significant cardiovascular toxicity. With vaping, people think they may be getting away with the combustible tobacco product, but we can’t forget that just the nicotine itself is well demonstrated to have adverse health effects.”

More studies on long-term vaping effects are needed

Adding fuel to the fire, e-cigarettes have more than nicotine in them and one pod can contain five times or more nicotine per milligram than one cigarette. Most e-cigarette devices heat a flavoured nicotine solution into an inhalable vapour. Dr. Carlsten said, “The various parts of the e-cigarette contain nicotine, the vehicle for delivery (diluent) and the flavorings, which all have evidence for harm. More studies need to be conducted to determine long-term effects.”

Google trend line on vaping.
Source: Google Trends

Health Canada cautions that vapers can expose themselves to harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and acrolein, and metals and contaminants like nickel, tin and aluminum. 

Dr. Carlsten said: “Based on what I’ve heard from youth, their impression is that these products are being presented as normal, everyday products and devices, just like their mobile phones or laptops. You have your phone and you have your vaping device on hand at all times.”

Parents can safeguard their kids by having direct, honest conversations with them to share important health information and being open about their concerns. 

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