A product meant to help adults quit smoking is increasingly finding its way into the hands of high school students, who may know little about the harm it can cause.
When e-cigarettes first began to appear on the market more than 10 years ago, they had been marketed to smokers as a safer alternative, without the same chemicals and tar that come with burning tobacco.
But more and more — with bright colours, and flavours like gummy bear, cotton candy and watermelon — it appears they’re appealing to high-school students who might not have even tried smoking.
Vaping is now the vice of choice for teens, who enjoy the sensory buzz and blowing the vapour from e-cigarettes into rings and mushroom clouds.
“It looks cool. It’s considered fun to do. What is for sure is that the kids — and I would argue their parents — have no idea of the potential health effects,” said Robert Schwartz, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Although it’s illegal to sell or give vaping devices to minors, Schwartz said there are convenience stores that will flout the law, and teens will also get an older brother or even parents to buy for them.
Youths in Ontario are even free to purchase e-juice refills, with or without nicotine, which are not included in the province’s Electronic Cigarettes Act.
What’s more, said Schwartz, vaping products are displayed openly and promoted “aggressively” with gas station banners and the like, and since the liquid is now allowed to contain nicotine, big tobacco is “all over it.”
The rate of high-school students who use e-cigarettes has gone up significantly in Canada over the past several years.
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