Youth Up In The Clouds

by David Logel

Vaping is currently a hot topic due to the rise in popularity amongst youth. This feature article explores how this trend started, the health risks, and the ins and outs of vaping. 

Upon its inception vaping was primarily advertised as a safer albeit less researched alternative to smoking cigarettes. Many people turned to vaporizers as a way to kick the nasty habit of smoking. Before long the fruity taste and scented clouds made its way into the hands of youth, leading to the epidemic that is currently sweeping across North America. 

Patricia Heffernan was one of the many people who turned to vaping to quit smoking in June 2015. After 22 years of smoking, she was hoping for more success than other methods like Nicorette gum.

“ I did find vaping more effective than some of the other methods used to quit smoking, In large part, I think this was due to the fact that the motion of lifting a cigarette to inhale and the act of inhaling something itself was so similar to the movement and inhalation required in vaping.”

Recently there have been many troubling medical reports on vaping and the risks associated with it. These include mysterious respiratory illnesses that have even resulted in death.  

Heffernan was able to successfully quit smoking after six months of vaping. She knew that she did not want to be using the method for long due to the unknown health risks at the time. Over the six months she gradually leaned down the nicotine strength in her juices. 

“I felt that I could more easily quit at that time because I had gradually decreased my nicotine intake to zero, but I had a nagging feeling that it might be affecting my breathing. I thought it could also be my imagination, so it was hard to tell.”

Like many new substances, it was hard to determine what risks came with vaping from the onset. When e-cigarettes reached North America in 2008 it was relatively unknown, what side effects and risks came with it. In 2009 the Canadian government started to learn more about vaping, deciding to ban the sale, advertisement and importing of e-cigarettes due to the use of propylene glycol.

Many people chose to see this as a precautionary measure, as the ban was relatively unenforced and short lived.

In May, 2018 E-cigarettes containing nicotine were legalized in Canada with the passage of Bill S-5. This legislation legalized e-cigarettes with nicotine for adults in Canada.

Today as more medical reports arise, there is a more clear picture of the risks of vaping by the day.

 When vaporizers hit the market and word started to spread that it was a healthier alternative to smoking, it quickly grew in popularity. As with many vices, youth became attracted to the large smoke clouds and the tasty juices. 

While many of his peers were attracted to vaping for different reasons, Danny Frost, a high school student at the time saw it as a way to quit smoking. 

“I started vaping five years ago, the reason I started vaping was to quit smoking cigarettes, which was unsuccessful at first but now I am officially off cigarettes.”

Frost noticed many of his friends trying out vaping at the time as well, even though some of them had never smoked before.

“I think it is really popular among high school kids and younger kids because it’s something they can consume without it affecting their mental capabilities too much, so they use it at school, they use it to be social at parties. ”

Recent studies show that there has been a dramatic increase in non-smokers using e-cigarettes.

According to a 2017 survey from Stats Canada, among Canadians who used a vaping product in the past 30 days, 65 per cent  are current smokers and 20 per cent are former smokers. 15 per cent reported having never smoked cigarettes.

Canadians who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2017.

  • Current Smokers (65%)
  • Former smokers (20%)
  • Non Smokers (15%)

Even with troubling medical reports continuing to emerge young people are still attracted to vaping.

A recent report published in the British Medical Journal, had the Canadian Cancer Society calling for the government to take action.  The report, conducted by Professor David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, found a 74 per cent increase in youth vaping (ages 16-19) from 2017 to 2018.

David Webb, a 22-year-old college student, began vaping about six months ago. Although these troubling medical reports and reported e-cigarette related incidents continue to be relevant in the news, he is not overly worried.

“Those  (vape juice) pods were probably contaminated, it sounded like they did not come from a good source, so I think as long as you stick with the brands and do not buy off-brand ones you will be okay.”

Webb says that he will continue to research the topic and is actively trying to reduce his daily intake in an attempt to quit.

Cameron Stone, a 24 year old University graduate, has used e-cigarettes on and off for the last two-years. He has done some research into the medical reports and is also not too worried.

It is kind of hard to find an unbiased research paper, and a lot of them have kind of been linked to black market cannabis vapes.”

Meanwhile Danny Frost says that while the medical reports coming out are clearly troubling, he has a choice to make.

“I have seen multiple medical reports saying that it is really bad for you and it could actually kill you, so, it does worry me, but I try to weigh the pros and cons between smoking cigarettes and vaping.”

Quitting an addictive substance like nicotine can be difficult. Especially when so many young people including peers and friends are actively using the substance.

Illegally Buying E-Cigarettes

With the spike in youth vaping, it raises the question of how do youth get their hands on e-cigarettes and accessories.

The Government of Ontario has the same policies for vaping as smoking. It is illegal to sell vaping accessories to anyone under the age of 19. Additionally, anyone under the age of 19 is not allowed entrance into a vape shop.

These laws are clearly advertised at many e-cigarette retailers and corner stores and are not being followed.

The Canadian Cancer Society believes that changes need to be made. In June they called for provincial governments to raise the legal age to purchase vaping products from 19 to 21. They also suggested restricted advertising; and moving the sale of flavoured vaping products to adult-only shops.

The Cost of Vaping

Purchasing e-cigarettes and accessories can get expensive quickly.  JUUL , a rising company, who sells their products in corner stores as well as e-cigarette shops, sell their unit for $50 dollars. That is on the low end of the spectrum and does not include accessories like pods.

E-cigarettes like JUUL’s and Stllth’s use nicotine juice pods, which are sold in packs of four.

David Webb, who uses a Stlth, says these products can get pricey.

“They are about 15 dollars per pack (of pods), and typically I buy a pack per week.”

Webb believes that e-cigarettes are a cheaper alternative than other nicotine options like smoking or chewing tobacco.

“Cigarettes are probably (around) 20 dollars per pack.”

With e-cigarette pods being less expensive than other forms of nicotine, it could explain why youth are being attracted to vaping.

Poll Time:

In an instagram poll we asked whether or not each individual had tried vaping. Our definition of trying vaping was simply inhaling off of an e-cigarette at least once. The poll was responded to by 249 people, with 74 per cent (184 people) responding yes and 26 per cent (65 people)responding no. Since the  poll is a strong sample size of the 18-25 age group, it demonstrates the amount of young adults trying e-cigarettes.

Have you tried vaping?

  • People Who Have Tried Vaping (74%)
  • Non-Vapers (26%)

Vaping at School

The spike in youth vaping has driven secondary and post-secondary institutions to create policies to outlaw vaping on school property.

Many college and university campuses have migrated to smoke-free campuses. Humber College is one of many Ontario smoke-free campuses. The ban which took effect last October includes all smoking and e-cigarette devices.

Although they promote a smoke free campus, Rob Kilfoyle, director of public safety at Humber College, notes that the smoke ban is relatively un-enforced as the school is taking more of an educational approach.

“If we observe or detect someone smoking (or vaping) we will approach them and ask them to not and remind them or inform them of the policy, so we are taking a bit of an educational approach at this stage.”said Kilfoyle.  

The college took steps to remove all smoking shelters across campus and have installed signs in those areas to outline the new policies.

According to the Humber’s student code of conduct the penalties that could be enforced range from a stern talking to, to a suspension.

E-cigarette use is also running ramped through secondary schools as well.  Students are reported to frequently school washrooms instead of the designated smoking areas.

High schools are actively taking measures to reduce e-cigarette use, these measures include removing washroom doors, and the monitoring of washrooms by teachers and principals.


Humber College North Campus (pc/David Logel)

Vaping Glossary:

Coil: The part of the e-cigarette that sits in the tank, and fires the juice by heating it

E- Cigarette: The name used to describe a device that gives smokers an alternative means to satisfy their nicotine cravings. At its most basic, it’s comprised of a battery and atomizer, with e-juice added, from which vapor is created.

E-Juice:The solution that’s vaporized to create vapour, e-juice comes in a variety of nicotine strengths and flavours. It is made from propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavouring, and nicotine (there are also some without nicotine).

Mouth Piece: The part of the e-cigarette which the user puts their lips when inhaling

Nicotine Level : The concentration of nicotine in an e-Liquid, measured in mg/mL.

Pods: The form in which certain vape juice is sold. Sold in packs of 4, non-reusable.

Starter Kit – A package offered by most vendors that usually has everything one needs to start vaping, including: one or two e-cigarettes, one or two atomizers/clearomizers, a charger, and/or a pack of pre-filled cartridges.

Tank: The part of the e-cigarette that holds the juice

Vaping – The activity of using an electronic cigarette.

Vapour – The result of atomizing e-liquid, this is also referred to as “clouds.” This is the main factor in vaping that simulates smoke to give smokers a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Vaporizer – Another term for an e-cig. Often used to describe a vaping device for ground materials or oil concentrates.