A construction worker exhales after using a vaping device while eating lunch on the steps at Robson Square, in Vancouver, on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A construction worker exhales after using a vaping device while eating lunch on the steps at Robson Square, in Vancouver, on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Youth vaping rates levelled off in 2020, while number of smokers declines

Stress reduction ranked highly among young Canadians’ reasons for vaping

Vaping rates among Canadian youth appear to have plateaued in 2020, a Statistics Canada study suggests, which one researcher calls a promising sign that the next generation could be kicking the nicotine habit.

According to a report released Wednesday, about one in seven young Canadians reported vaping on a regular basis last year, a level roughly on par with the data the agency collected in 2019.

Researchers found 14 per cent of teenagers aged 15 to 19 had vaped in the previous month, and the prevalence among young adults aged 20 to 24 was 13 per cent.

By contrast, the data shows only three per cent of adults aged 25 or older say they used e-cigarettes within the previous month.

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond said the numbers indicate that the surge in youth vaping in recent years could be tapering off because of stricter regulations, rising awareness of the health risks and lifestyle changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It looks like we may have reached the peak of youth vaping,” Hammond said. “I would expect that vaping will continue to decline among young people, and if that happens in parallel with the continued reduction in smoking, then that’s very good news for everybody.”

But one anti-smoking advocate is urging governments to redouble their efforts to tackle youth vaping, because while rates may have levelled off, they remain too high.

“It’s good that the rates aren’t going up. But at this point, we still have over 400,000 youth who are vaping across the country,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.

“What’s frustrating here is that this epidemic of youth vaping continues to rage, and that governments are not attacking the problem as quickly and strongly as they should be.”

The numbers in Statistics Canada’s 2020 Tobacco and Nicotine Survey are based on the responses of 8,112 Canadians collected between December 2020 and January 2021.

Last year’s smoking and vaping patterns can also in part be attributed to shifts brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, but the impacts aren’t clearcut, Hammond said.

About one in 10 Canadians reported being regular cigarette smokers in 2020, but prevalence declined overall compared to 2019, according to the study. Young adults aged 20 to 24 saw the biggest dip, with eight per cent saying they were smokers in 2020 compared 13 per cent the previous year.

For some, lockdown has allowed more opportunities to light up at home, he said. And while many people have used the pandemic as an opportunity to cultivate healthier habits, others are turning to familiar vices to cope, he added.

Stress reduction ranked highly among young Canadians’ reasons for vaping, with 24 per cent of participants aged 20 to 24 citing it as their primary motivation, a 10 per cent jump compared to 2019.

Hammond said the shuttering of schools in many parts of the country has cut many young people off from the influence of their peers, who often act as e-cigarette suppliers. Moreover, he said, it’s more difficult for kids to sneak a puff while stuck at home with their parents.

“For young people, there’s probably a greater likelihood that they would reduce both vaping and smoking. Because again, you’re not with your buddies,” said Hammond. “It’s just a lot less cool to be smoking on the back porch with your mom.”

Hammond said the spread of a respiratory illness may also be making people more conscious of the health risks linked to e-cigarettes, including vaping-related lung disease.

He said the Statistics Canada findings could also signal the success of government strategies to curb soaring youth vaping rates after Ottawa opened the door for international products to enter the Canadian market in 2018.

Since then, both federal and provincial authorities have introduced tougher restrictions to reverse the troubling trend.

In December, the federal government proposed to reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in vaping products as part of greater efforts to reduce their appeal to young Canadians.

Health Canada also enforced a ban on vaping advertisements in places young people can access also took effect last year.

In a statement Wednesday, the federal regulator said it is considering further measures to deter youth vaping, including restricting flavours.

Many provinces have implemented their own anti-vaping measures, including increasing taxes, restricting the sale of youth-friendly flavours and cutting nicotine content.

READ MORE: B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

vaping

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

Volunteers participate in a work-bee at J.J. Collett Natural Area on March 27. (Photo Submitted)
J.J. Collett natural area proceeding with projects

The nature area appeared on a list of parks and nature areas that were “underutilized” by UCP

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read