After six reported deaths and about 450 cases of potential vaping-related illnesses in the United States, President Donald Trump has announced plans for a ban of flavoured e-cigarette products.
Health Canada is concerned about the uptake in youth vaping and has been working at ways to reduce access and appeal of vaping products to young people.
But there are a lot of challenges according to experts.
Walking into a vaping store you can see the fruity flavours and cartoon packaging on some of the products, but no one under the age of 18 can purchase any of the items in Canada.
Russian Ras is the owner of Vape N Save in Winnipeg. He says vaping isn’t intended as a gateway to smoking, but as a way to help people wean off cigarettes.
“I would say it’s not safe, but it’s safer compared to tobacco use,” he said.
“Really our main purpose for vaping is for people who are smoking and who want to cease smoking and find a cleaner alternative.”
Ras says he always ensures people show their ID before buying a product but he realizes young people are still able to get their hands on the products.
“For kids buying vaping products, they usually buy them from their friends. If they go to a shop they can’t buy it.”
The Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance wants to raise that minimum age to 21 so that older high school students can’t legally purchase the products and sell them to younger students.
“Not a lot of 21-year-olds are still in high school so that gives us the opportunity to take the products out of the high school setting and take them out of the hands of youth,” executive director John McDonald said.
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Even though the products aren’t allowed to be used on any school property across Manitoba, Josh Watt, Executive Director of the Manitoba School Boards Association, says he knows students are using it even in the classrooms because it can be odourless and undetected.
“We are hoping to raise awareness in very short order. A lot of kids unfortunately think vaping is a safe alternative to tobacco and cannabis when we don’t think that’s the case,” he said.
“It’s very serious. I mean it’s our job as an education system to make sure students have healthy futures ahead of them. We make strides to make sure students are aware and informed of the choices they make.”
Health Canada says vaping can increase your exposure to harmful chemicals and that many vaping products do have nicotine in them, the highly addictive chemical.
Health Canada is also looking at ways to reduce access and the appeal of vaping products to youth.