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Hidden Dangers of Vaping: Health unit reports alarming surge in teen addiction

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The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is raising the alarm about the rise in young people vaping, threatening the progress of tobacco control as they become hooked on nicotine at staggering rates.

Despite a decline in traditional smoking among young people, health experts say Canada is witnessing some of the highest rates of teen vaping worldwide.

According to the Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey, the number of students in Grades 7 to 12 who reported using vaping products in the past year doubled from 11 percent in 2017 to 23 percent in 2019 - that means roughly 105,600 students, or 13 percent, are now vaping weekly or even daily.

In Simcoe Muskoka, the health unit reports nearly one-third of students in this age group reported vaping in the past year, significantly surpassing the provincial average. Furthermore, vaping rates tend to increase as youth progress through high school.

HARMFUL ADDICTION

E-cigarettes, often resembling USB sticks, pens, or highlighters, heat a liquid known as e-liquid, which SMDHU says, contrary to popular belief, is not harmless water vapour; it contains nicotine, one of its main ingredients, and some formulations even include cannabis.

"Nicotine is the same addictive drug found in tobacco cigarettes. However, a single e-cigarette can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes or more, making them highly addictive. Another concern is that when heated, some of the other chemicals in e-liquid create the same cancer-causing by-product made by smoking cigarettes," SMDHU stated in a release.

Health experts say the consequences of nicotine addiction are more serious for adolescents, as their developing brains become addicted more rapidly and with less exposure than in adults.

"Nicotine changes brain development and negatively affects memory, concentration and behaviour, and contrary to misconception, vaping does not relieve stress among youth, and can actually increase anxiety and depression," the release noted.

The health unit advises parents to talk with their kids about making informed decisions about their health.

"Talking early and often is one of the best ways to support young people in making informed decisions, and ideally prevent them from becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping," the release concluded.

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