HAMILTON, Ontario, June 03, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On May 31, to mark World No Tobacco Day, the Honourable Patty Hajdu announced $4.8 million in funding to develop programs and services to end tobacco use. The Government of Canada’s Tobacco Control Strategy aims to reduce tobacco use by 5% by 2035. The Canadian Vape Association (CVA) commends the Canadian Government on this ongoing initiative to save lives.
While we admire the continued efforts to end tobacco use, our nations leading cause of death, Canada’s Tobacco Control Strategy would be more effective if vaping weren’t being miscategorized and vilified throughout the announcement. Vaping is a proven harm reduction tool yet, in her announcement, Hon. Patty Hajdu cites vaping as posing serious health risks while failing to acknowledge the harm reduction potential of vapour products relative to combustible tobacco. While we understand that vaping is not completely without health risks, the Royal College of Physicians has concluded for the 6th consecutive year that it is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.
A priority of the Tobacco Control Strategy is developing programs to curb youth smoking and vaping. The CVA has always denounced the use of vapour products by youth and non-smokers and fully supports the funding of resources for youth. However, it is imperative that proper policy is implemented to support these programs. It has been repeatedly proven that flavours are not driving youth use, but rather high nicotine concentrations, and non-age restricted access points. It is these very issues that the CVA has called on the government to address in order to curb youth uptake. Instead many continue to advocate for the removal of flavours, which numerous studies have shown will have little to no impact on youth uptake but will negatively impact those who use this tool to reduce or eliminate their use of combustible tobacco .
After intense criticism that flavours were attracting youth, Juul voluntarily removed flavours from the United States, leaving only tobacco, mint and menthol flavours available. A study subsequently completed by the American Cancer Society, published in the American Journal of Public Health, has proven that flavours do not impact youth vaping rates. After removing flavours, youth did not quit vaping but instead switched to tobacco, mint or menthol vape products. This corroborates a report published by the Centers of Decease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had previously discredited the notion that flavours were the driver for youth use of vapour products. According to the CDC report “Tobacco Product Use and Associated Factors Among Middle and Highschool Students”, only 22.3 percent of young people indicated that they vape “because e-cigarettes are available in flavours, such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate.” The most common reason for use among youth was, “I was curious about them.”
The rise in youth vaping rates here in Canada directly correlates to the entrance of Big Tobacco vape brands, such as Juul and Vype. With the entrance of tobacco owned vape brands came aggressive advertising campaigns which were not restricted to adult environments, a practise that has since been federally prohibited. Additionally, the products distributed by these brands have nicotine concentrations of 57 - 59 milligrams per millilitre, making them highly addictive, and the devices are very easily concealed. The UK has not seen a rise in youth vaping as a result of the nicotine limit that had been established in the European Union prior to the entrance of tobacco owned high nicotine vape brands; this nicotine limit meant that the high nicotine vape products distributed by companies like Juul and Vype were not available in the UK to entice youth.
While flavours are not the cause of youth uptake, they are a significant factor in what makes vaping more successful than other NRT products. This phenomenon is not unique to vapour products. It is well documented with other nicotine replacement therapy’s (NRT) that flavours reduce cravings and increase success rates. However, a study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine verified that vaping is the most successful tool available for smoking cessation. In this study, nearly 900 smokers were randomly provided with either NRT products, such as patches and lozenges, or an electronic cigarette. The abstinence rate after one year was nearly double for the e-cigarette group at 18%, compared to only 9.9% in the NRT group. This is by far the largest study to date on the effectiveness of vaping as compared to traditional NRTs and many credible studies to date report similar findings.
Although the CVA and open vapour industry are concerned by the absence of any discussion surrounding harm reduction in the Hon. Patty Hajdu’s announcement, we all share the same goal. There must be and end to the devastation to public health caused by combustible tobacco. To meet this end, it is crucial that harm reduction be included in the conversation. All cessation and harm reduction tools need to be embraced and legislation surrounding these tools must be evidence based.
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