Health & Studies

Canadian Data Causes Celebration

A paper indicating a rise in the number of teen vapers in Canada causes some to celebrate and attempt to goad harm reduction advocates

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Research covering the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, looked at the numbers of teens taking up vaping. It is a disappointing hotchpotch that negated to factor in potential causes for the observed patterns. It has been leapt upon by prohibitionists and zealots as a reason to celebrate and implement superfluous restrictions.

“Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys” was published by the British Medical Journal this last week.

Those taking part represented:

  1. School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Canada
  2. Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Canada
  3. Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Canada
  4. Medical University of South Carolina, USA
  5. King’s College London, UK
  6. Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
  7. Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Buffalo, USA
  8. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre, USA
  9. Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Professor Ann McNeill has a balanced, informed view of vaping as a harm reduction tool. It is disappointing to see her name associated with others taking part who have been responsible for some shoddy ecig science in the past.

The team looked at data from 16 to 19 year olds in 2017 and 2018, recruited from commercial panels in Canada (n=7891), England (n=7897), and the US (n=8140).

They were assessed for prevalence of vaping and smoking for use ever, in the past 30 days, in the past week, and on 15 days or more in the past month.

They concluded: “Between 2017 and 2018, among 16 to 19 year olds the prevalence of vaping increased in Canada and the US, as did smoking in Canada, with little change in England. The rapidly evolving vaping market and emergence of nicotine salt based products warrant close monitoring.”

Simon Chapman, someone who increasingly resembles a swivelled-eyed loon, celebrated by writing “Here we go, here we go,” and bizarrely declared it a “champagne day”.

What has been totally glossed over is the fact that Canada legalised cannabis in 2018 – something that must have had an impact. Also, the activities by anti-vaping organisations in the States will have had a bearing as their adverts come across as the most “Try Vaping” campaigns in the global market.

It’s a disjointed study that fails to present a complete picture, but this doesn’t matter to the provincial government of British Columbia and the Canadian Cancer Society. They immediately called for the Federal Government to introduce vaping regulations that would restrict nicotine content, device design and flavours.

Dr. Chris Lalonde, Academic Research Advisor for Rights 4 Vapers, responded: “What's not mentioned is that both federal and provincial vaping legislation already exists which restricts sales to anyone under the age of 18, promotion, display advertising and communication and limits features like certain flavours and designs thought to be appealing to youth.”

“Is this single set of data enough to justify the hasty introduction of more draconian regulatory measures that could simultaneously reduce the appeal of these products to adult smokers that rely on vaping to reduce or quit smoking?"

Rights 4 Vapers wondered whether the concerns over an apparent increase in vaping is proportionate: “What's more concerning is that the same report shows that teen cigarette smoking in the past 30 days increased 45%. The use of alcohol in the past 12 months by teens actually decreased by 3%, but cannabis use went up by 19%.”

The important question then is which of these numbers should we be worried about? According to the study, 60% of youth used alcohol and 27% used cannabis in the past 12 months, 16% smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, and 15% vaped.”

“If what we hope is that teens who already smoke might be tempted to switch to vaping, then the report contains some good news. Among current teen smokers, 44% are also vaping. Even "experimental smokers" are also vaping (29%). Are they on their way to fully switching from cigarettes to vaping (likely, and a good thing), or from dual-use to just smoking (unlikely, and a bad thing)?”

“And what about teens who have never smoked? Are they being lured into a lifetime of addiction by vaping? Here the news is good from a public health perspective. It turns out teens are not being lured into a lifetime of addiction by vaping – they are not very keen on vaping or smoking.”

“Most of the teens surveyed have never vaped, and among those who have tried it (20%), just 3% have vaped in the past week, and only 0.6% vaped on more than 15 of the last 30 days. That's just 14 teens out of the 2,441 surveyed.”

“Cigarette smoking and drinking carry far higher health risks than vaping or cannabis. If, as health authorities all agree, vaping is safer—not 'safe' but safer—than smoking cigarettes, then, perhaps, we should think clearly about what we hope to accomplish by battling teen vaping through introducing provincial regulations that go even further than regulations for smoking or drinking.”

The paper’s funding, fixation with Juul, and fears about nicotine salts draws into question whether the lead author and some team members held an alternative agenda. Studies like this are being used to attack vaping as a harm reduction approach for adults in the USA – and there should have been a more detailed analysis why the UK is not experiencing the claimed teen phenomena in the USA and Canada.


  • “Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys” by David Hammond et al. – [link]
  • Rights 4 Vapers – [link]
  • “Goniewicz Lies With Logs”, POTV – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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