After 30 years of decline, smoking rates in Canada have risen. Could this disconcerting statistic be linked to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes, otherwise known as vaping products, are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid cartridge containing chemicals such as nicotine. The heated liquid becomes an aerosol that a person inhales.
Especially among youth, use of e-cigarettes has been trending upwards. One in five youth in Canada have tried vaping. Recent evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are associated with initiating smoking among youth. In particular, vaping with nicotine may lead to symptoms of addiction. Nicotine is also known to affect brain development in youth, including memory and concentration.
For adults who are smokers, vaping may appear as a step towards quitting. Many smokers may go through a transition period in which they both smoke and vape. So far, research has not confirmed that vaping improves rates of success when trying to quit. Safe and effective methods for quitting exist, including nicotine replacement therapy and counselling.
Health Canada advises that vaping products may pose other health risks that have not yet been fully assessed. In addition to nicotine, other harmful chemicals may be present or created through heating the vaping liquids.
Interior Health recognizes that smoking is an addiction, and quitting often requires a number of strategies and supports. We continue to offer education, smoking cessation resources, and addiction programs to support individuals who wish to reduce or eliminate tobacco use.
For those who are trying to quit smoking, here are some tips:
The safest behaviour is to not smoke. British Columbians who want to quit smoking can visit their pharmacist to access free nicotine replacement therapy through the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program. Further web, text, and telephone support is available through www.quitnow.ca, which is operated by the BC Lung Association.
If attempting to quit smoking, double your chances. Nicotine replacement therapy, together with counseling, doubles your chances of success.
If you do choose to vape, avoid smoking cigarettes as well.
Don’t provide vape devices to youth. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is a highly addictive and toxic substance, and may impact brain development and increase smoking rates among youth.
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Author Jeff Conners is the tobacco reduction coordinator at Interior Health.