By Jessica Gearey
On September 26th, Global News reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed another 275 cases of vaping-related pulmonary illness in the United States. The total has now reached 805 confirmed cases, including twelve deaths.
Only one case of a vape-related pulmonary illness has been reported in Canada, specifically in Quebec. With the vaping epidemic on the rise, Health Canada is now issuing caution to vape consumers, identifying the risks that come with it.
For youth, vaping has now become a popular trend. Whether it’s an everyday habit or a party activity, vape products are being consumed on the daily. But what exactly is so attractive about them?
Dawson’s psychology department coordinator, Selma Hamdani, specializes in addiction and drug use. She thinks vape products’ popularity may be credited to how they are advertised: “When the vaping trend happened, it was advertised as a safer alternative to cigarettes, when in fact it isn’t,” she states. “We now know that in the vaping agents—in the pods—there are still some foreign agents that aren’t healthy for you and can cause respiratory problems.”
"It’s not the product itself that is addictive; it’s all the other rituals surrounding it that become addictive”
A number of students at Dawson have taken up the habit of vaping, but Cassandra Roch, a first-year student, has recently quit.“The taste was intriguing to me,” she says, having been introduced to vaping by her ex-boyfriend. “I did it whenever I was bored, or if I wanted to de-stress.” Vaping provided a satisfaction to Roch. The scent of the pods became a source of comfort. “The scent in itself has gained an incentive value,” Hamdani says on the topic, claiming that “it’s not the product itself that is addictive; it’s all the other rituals surrounding it that become addictive.”
Scented pods aren’t the only thing that attracts young people to vape. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are easily disguisable in pods. Cannabinoids have been proven to have medicinal effects, but Handami explains that the data is still very fresh: “We do know that there seems to be harmful effects when consuming THC and CBD, but it’s still unclear. Some data shows that THC might have harmful or long-term impacts on a younger brain, especially in male, whereas other data will show that it’s not significant.” Handami also states that the changes happening in a younger brain aren’t enough to determine whether or not they should keep away from THC and CBD. She notes that ingesting cannabinoid substances through vape isn’t as obvious (although the smell is still evident) as smoking a joint would be, making it easy for underage teenagers to get away with consuming cannabis.
With the information that is starting to emerge, what could we possibly see in the future? On a personal level, Hamdani thinks that the vaping trend will be discovered to be harmful: “We will eventually have restrictions, laws, and health warnings, which we are already starting to see,” she states. “I think the fad will also take a long time, just like it did with cigarettes. I hope people will realize that it’s not a healthy option.”
With the recent banning of some vape products in certain states on the other side of the border, Canada is soon going to be expected to make similar changes. Dawson College, in particular, already has people advocating against vaping, such as Hamdani who “hope[s] that our governments and institutions start to apply the same health warnings that they do with cigarettes.”
Laws have been made in order to divert people from smoking. Cigarettes are no longer seen in stores and frightening pictures are put on the packages. Handami feels that the same warnings should be applied for vape products: “There should be similar measures of clear warning that this is not the healthier option. It may seem like it’s better than cigarettes, but the data is suggesting that it may not be.”
The research is still ongoing and not much has been found, but the actions that some institutions are starting to make have made their concerns clear. The unknown makes the mind wonder how exactly vaping will further impact our lives.