Response to the Peterborough Examiner: Dr. Rosana Salvaterra: Vaping continues to pose a threat to Peterborough’s young people

After review of Dr. Rosana Salvaterra’s op-ed, “Vaping continues to pose a threat to Peterborough’s young people,” published by the Peterborough Examiner, the Canadian Vaping Association agrees with many of the comments made by Dr. Salvaterra. We agree that nicotine is an addictive chemical and effective regulation is necessary to protect youth from addiction.

While many of Dr. Salveterra’s comments are inline with the views of the CVA, we must reiterate that the lung illness outbreak EVALI was not caused by nicotine vaping products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have concluded that the cause of the outbreak was vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent used in illicit cannabis products. It is imperative that when medical professionals discuss EVALI they note the distinction. Vaping is the act of inhaling an aerosol and is a catch all term for this act. Many substances can be vaped therefor it is not completely synonymous with nicotine vaping. Media and medical professionals failing to note this distinction has led to a lack of product confidence in smokers who had either made the switch or were considering switching from smoking to vaping. Many studies have shown vaping to be significantly less harmful than smoking and this lack of distinction slows vaping adoption rates and harms public health.

Despite the need to clarify the cause of EVALI, the CVA strongly agrees with Dr. Salvaterra regarding Ontario’s new vaping regulations. Restricting high nicotine and flavoured products to age-restricted specialty stores will be an effective solution to curbing youth vaping. The data from Heart and Stroke’s, “2020 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project,” suggests this regulation has already proven effective. The survey found that in Ontario, youth are least likely to access vaping products through specialty stores. The CVA believes the Ontario regulatory model is the strongest model globally and has called on the federal government to implement it nationally. Through federal implementation of Ontario’s regulations, Canada can end disparity among provinces and strengthen youth prevention.

Dr. Salvettera notes that Ontario has promised to advocate for a federal vaping tax as a deterrent for youth use. The Canadian Vaping Association continues to advocate to all governments that taxing a harm reduction product is counter productive to public health. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that taxing vaping causes higher smoker rates. Additional taxation is also ineffective for curbing youth use as it disproportionately effects open systems (refillable), while having a minimal cost increase on closed systems (ie. non-refillable pods, disposables), which all studies have shown are preferred by youth.

Although the CVA refutes the notion that there is a youth epidemic, as the supporting data has been retracted, the organization believes in strong policy that balances adult access with youth prevention. We echo Dr. Salvettera’s closing remarks, “…we’ll need to rely on people like you — the siblings, parents and friends to make sure these substances stay out of the hands of our younger and more vulnerable residents.” Ontario has created strong regulation and the key to its success is consistent enforcement. Through harsher penalties for supplying youth and youth education programs, we can maintain the reasonable access for smokers that Ontario’s policies have enabled.