EDITORIAL: Time to act on vaping crisis

Simply warning of the dangers of vaping is not enough

Last weekend, Health Canada issued a warning of potential risk of pulmonary illness associated with vaping products.

It’s advising Canadians who use vaping products to monitor themselves for symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain.

And it’s telling them to seek medical attention promptly if they have concerns about their health – which would scarcely seem to be an epiphany.

Significantly, Health Canada is also advising that vaping – inhaling flavoured nicotine or cannabinoid products as steam from a battery-driven vaping device or e-cigarette – “does have risks and the potential long-term effects of vaping are unknown.”

Even more significantly, it is saying, flat-out, that non-smokers, women who are pregnant and young people “should not vape.”

Many would argue this warning doesn’t go nearly far enough – given the current epidemic use of vaping products by young people and the fact that there have been more than 800 vaping-related lung illnesses and a minimum of 13 vaping related deaths reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has gone as far as to declare a public-health emergency and slap a four-month ban on all retail and online sales of vaping products, while other U.S. jurisdictions are declaring their own bans and restrictions.

But, here in Canada, federal authorities seem to be placing the burden of truth on reports and studies of potentially vaping-related illnesses, rather than placing the burden of proving the safety of vaping products on the vaping industry – which until fairly recently was getting a free pass for being safer than cigarette smoking, after Ottawa legalized vaping in 2018.

The idea that there’s something wrong with vaping is far from news to White Rock’s Owen Mann-Campbell. On Monday, he and Jaycen Stephens filed a notice of claim against vape manufacturers Juul in B.C. Supreme Court, alleging that the company engages in deceptive marketing practices and targets youth in its advertising.

Mann-Campbell, who, like Stephens, was 18 when he first started vaping last year, has since complained of shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, increased addiction to nicotine, anxiety and depression and weight loss.

This past June, provincial health minister Adrian Dix said the province was prepared to act even if the federal government was unwilling to impose strict measures.

At that time, the province was recommending Ottawa impose tougher regulation on the industry – including the reduction of active ingredients such as nicotine and curbing youth-oriented sales and advertising.

Three months later, the clock is ticking, as more and more cases like Mann-Campbell’s come to light.

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