Digging Deeper – More youth smoking in Sask. than anywhere else in Canada

Health Canada found more than a quarter of high school students have experimented with  electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping.
Health Canada found more than a quarter of high school students have experimented with electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping.

On this week’s edition of Digging Deeper we look at the Results of Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

Health Canada found more than a quarter of high school students have experimented with electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping.

Forty-three thousand students were surveyed during the 2014-15 school year and the results show that 27 per cent of Canadian teens from grades 10 to 12 have tried vaping, 47 per cent of students grade 6-12 found e-cigarettes easy to get, and nearly a quarter believe e-cigarettes are harmless.

A closer look reveals that Saskatchewan teens have the highest smoking rates in the country, with 27 percent of our youth having tried smoking cigarettes. Donna Pasiechnik, Canadian Cancer Society Government Relations Manager for Saskatchewan sat down with Global’s Candace Daniels and gave some context to the numbers.

Click to play video: 'Digging Deeper – How many Sask. youth have tried smoking'
Digging Deeper – How many Sask. youth have tried smoking

Candace: What was your first reaction to the findings when you saw the survey?

Donna: I wasn’t surprised… we’ve consistently had the highest smoking rates in Canada, well over the national average. Um it’s a concern though because we know that tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of sickness and death and responsible for 30 percent of cancers. We know it’s much easier to prevent kids from starting than it is to help a person quit. Nicotine is a terrible addiction and so really we’ve been focusing our efforts on youth prevention.

Candace: Let’s talk vaping in this new millennium…it wasn’t an issue thirty years ago, what do you think is driving that?

Donna: Well we’ve seen a proliferation of stores that sell electronic products. Health Canada has been slow to regulate this product, and it’s a trendy, new thing. I talk to kids all the time and they and their friends want to try them, use them. It’s an easy way to get hooked on nicotine and once you get hooked on nicotine, it’s not a huge stretch to go then to a tobacco product for nicotine. So, that’s our concern. Those national numbers that came out in that survey showed that there’s really very little difference between the number of grade ten to 12 kids using e-cigarettes versus smoking, it’s… almost on par, and that’s a big concern because while we’re trying to get to a smoke-free generation the potential of e-cigarettes is to hook another generation of kids and that should be a concern for everyone.

Candace: It’s kind of deceiving because you don’t get the long list of chemical ingested that you would with a cigarette, but nicotine is still very addictive and addiction is addiction.

Donna: That’s right we believe that, and we say that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco, there’s still a lot of research underway, but the bottom line is that we in tobacco control are trying to prevent kids from starting in the first place and if they’re experimenting with e-cigarettes, with nicotine, it’s a slippery slope.

Candace: Let’s talk about any gaps in legislation, particularly here in Saskatchewan. How far are we from making a difference? Is there a climate, or a legislative climate, that allows for this smoking culture?

Donna: Saskatchewan has fallen far behind the rest of Canada on a number of fronts when it comes to tobacco control. For example, on the e-cigarettes, eight provinces now have moved to regulate electronic cigarettes so that kids can’t purchase them, they can’t be promoted or displayed the same way tobacco products are and they can’t be used anywhere smoking is banned. Eight provinces! And we have the highest youth smoking rates and our government does nothing.
That’s just one area. We released a report card in November that showed how poorly we’re doing

Candace: And what was our grade?

Donna: D+. So there are a number of areas we’d like we’d like to see the government move on, this is just one of them.
We don’t have any money to do work in tobacco control, no programs, you know we still allow smoking on outdoor patios or restaurants and bars, other provinces have moved to ban that. We really have a long way to go.


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