Canada 'falling behind' in efforts to halt teen vaping: UBCO research

Teen vaping up: UBCO

Doctors say they're disheartened by the results of a recent Health Canada Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey that indicates Canadian teens are among the highest e-cigarette users in the world.

The Health Canada study shows 29 per cent of Canadian students between Grades 7 and 12 have tried an e-cigarette, and 17 per cent have vaped in the past month.

The study points to marketing, peer pressure, school environments contributing to Canada sustaining some of world’s highest youth vaping rates.

University of British Columbia Okanagan researchers, including Dr. Laura Struik who led her own study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, says Canada is falling behind in developing intervention programs to stop young people from starting to vape.

“Youth and young adults are disproportionately at risk for the harmful effects of vaping because exposure at this age alters natural brain development and impacts lung health early on. As a result, there has been a long-standing urgency to intervene over the last few years, and we wanted to know what has been done across our nation,” says Dr. Struik.

The UBCO study examined campaigns directed at young people to prevent vaping uptake. Researchers analyzed 46 different campaigns to determine what kind of messaging was being used to influence the behaviour and decision making of young people.

“We know from previous research that vaping uptake is influenced by various intersecting factors, including, but not limited to, mental health, self-efficacy, social norms, environmental factors, knowledge and so forth. So, relying almost solely on telling teens about the potential physical health harms of vaping as a reason to not vape is likely going to fall flat, and recent youth-driven evidence confirms this.”

Dr. Struik believes there is room to incorporate more meaningful and comprehensive approaches in prevention efforts.

“In the end, the evidence reveals that Canada needs to step it up when it comes to vaping prevention programs aimed at our youth,” Dr. Struik says. “And these prevention programs must be informed and driven by Canadian youth themselves to truly tackle this issue.”

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