Health & Studies

Canadian Correction

Massive errors were made in a study claiming youth vaping in Canada was rising prolifically. The authors have looked again at their data and discovered no increase

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Even before “Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys” had completed its peer review process, University of Waterloo Professor David Hammond took to telling the world’s media about “a disturbing trend in Canadian teen vaping rates”. It turns out he was totally wrong.

In 2019, Planet of the Vapes covered the publication of the paper, covering the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, looking at the numbers of teens taking up vaping. We called it, “a disappointing hotchpotch that negated to factor in potential causes for the observed patterns”.

The team looked at data from 16 to 19 year olds in 2017 and 2018, 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.”

Hammond said: “We have been trying to find ways why this data isn't robust. We have not been able to find any reason. All signs are very worrisome. There are also troubling findings on smoking rates and signs that progress in reducing youth smoking may have stalled. We all want these findings not to be true.

Good news then, David, they weren’t true.

People may wonder how hard Hammond looked at the data to see if it wasn’t true, as he ran off before publication to present his findings at the next meeting of the federal Scientific Advisory Board on Vaping Products, speaking to several Health Canada officials.

If your job is to regulate vaping, I don't know how someone wouldn't be concerned about some of the market trends we've seen,” he told them.

It marked a seismic shift in Canada’s approach to tobacco harm reduction.

Appropriately named James Van Loon, director general of the Tobacco Control Directorate at Health Canada, publicly worried about a supposed lack of evidence for vaping to help adults quit smoking, and said: “We really think that no young people should be using electronic cigarettes because of the health risks that we know and possibly more important the health risks that we don't know.”

At the time, Part-time anti-vape activist and full-time online troll Simon Chapman celebrated the paper by saying it was a “champagne day” for Big Tobacco. It is highly unlikely that he will now be issuing an apology and correcting his position in light of the latest news.

The authors now write: “The findings published in our paper indicated that smoking among 16 to 19 year olds might have increased in Canada between 2017 and 2018. At the time of publication, no other national estimates were available for 2018 in Canada, and smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds had not declined between 2015 and 2017, after several decades of steady decline.

“However, after publication of our paper, Health Canada released data from its national monitoring survey of youths, the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS), which did not indicate an increase in smoking between 2016-172 and 2018-19.”

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos has called this a “massive erratum” and wrote: “The study results were presented to the government and leaked to the media 7 months before publication (because of the troubling findings!!). But the original abstract still reports the wrong results, and the correction is available in a supplement.”


  • Our coverage of the paper’s publication – [link]
  • 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]
  • 2020 Update statement – [link]

Photo Credit:

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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