Canada could be facing one of the worst health care scares in a generation, and the Canadian Cancer Society says Health Canada has ignored the warnings.
Vaping has long been viewed as a better alternative to smoking. But earlier this year the federal government made selling flavour pods loaded with nicotine legal. And in September a company called Juul, which has captured 70 per cent of the U.S. market, began selling its product in Canada.
“We have made such progress in reducing youth smoking, we don’t want a new generation getting hooked to nicotine through e-cigs and related products,” says Rob Cunningham of the Cancer Society.
“Juuling,” the act of smoking a Juul, has become a fad in the U.S. Teens who have never smoked cigarettes are getting addicted, leading American health care officials to call it an epidemic and school boards have begun locking bathrooms to prevent teens from vaping during the day.
The Juul is a USB-size stick which contains the equivalent nicotine of 20 cigarettes and can be easily consumed in a day.
“So the Juul works with salt nics – salt-based nicotine, which is closer to its natural form, the way it’s found in tobacco,” says Boris Giller of the Canadian Vaping Association. “And it really allows for a faster and smoother absorption of nicotine, so you can have much higher concentrations of it and yet it will not provide you with a burning sensation in your throat.”
Juul pods come in a variety of different flavours, including cotton candy, unicorn horn and peanut butter and jam. That, combined with its small size and bright rainbow lights make it attractive to teens, say critics. The FDA in the U.S. recently raided the company’s head office in San Francisco as part of its investigation into its sales and marketing practices. Officials with the FDA recently warned the industry it had two months to come up with a plan to keep its devices out of the hands of kids or face tough sanctions.
Vape stores Global News has contacted in Canada report demand for Juul products is so high they’re selling out every week. And the increase in users has been so rapid, industry watchers say the current statistics are no longer valid, specifically in regards to vapers who have never smoked.
“The big question is will we see more people vaping regularly? That would be indicative of addiction, and if Juul contributes to that,” says University of Waterloo researcher David Hammond.
Health Canada has imposed new regulations on the industry to prevent teens from getting addicted but critics say they don’t go far enough. The Canadian rules focus primarily on how vaping is marketed and to whom. However, they don’t address how much nicotine is allowable.
The EU and the U.K. have determined a limit of 20 milligrams per millilitre is sufficient to help smokers use vaping as a cessation tool. On its website, Juul says its device delivers 59 milligrams per millilitre of nicotine.
“It took us decades to learn our lessons from tobacco,” says the Cancer Society’s Rob Cunningham. “But we have to remember those lessons. We know what to do, we just have to implement those measures.”