News release: New study shows youth are vaping early and vaping often

Flavoured vapes and high nicotine content lure young people and keep them hooked

A new study of youth and young adult vaping behaviour and preferences reveals that young people across the country who vape do so most days of the week, many times a day. The research also highlights the reasons why they first start vaping and why they continue, and that many have moved on to smoking cigarettes.

“The survey results are both horrifying and illuminating,” says Dr. Andrew Pipe, board chair, Heart & Stroke. “Young people are starting to vape before they turn 16. They are vaping six days a week, 30 times a day, and they are addicted: the majority (59%) have tried to quit vaping multiple times without success and many have begun smoking after vaping. We are throwing decades of successful tobacco control out the window by creating a whole new generation dependent on nicotine.”

Other findings from the survey of young people across the country point to the factors that influence their vaping behaviour:

  • Flavours entice young people to start vaping and keep vaping.
    • The survey revealed nine in ten (92%) young people cite flavours as an important reason why they started vaping and the same number (90%) say it is an important factor for continuing to do so.
    • Their most preferred flavours are berry, confectionary, mango and mint/menthol.
  • Young people use vapes high in nicotine.
    • Nine in ten (92%) of the young vapers surveyed use e-juice that contains nicotine and of these almost all (98%) are aware of the nicotine concentration in their devices.
    • Two-thirds (66%) of young people who use vapes use the highest concentrations of nicotine available; between 50–60mg/mL. The nicotine concentration limit in the European Union is 20mg/mL.
    • The amount of nicotine consumed each week by young people who vape regularly is equivalent to the amount of nicotine in three packs of cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive and damaging to developing brains.
  • Vaping is affordable for young people.
    • According to the survey young regular vapers spend on average just under $15.00 per week on vaping products, which is about an hour of minimum wage work and less than a single pack of cigarettes in most Canadian regions. Cigarettes are taxed at a much higher rate than vaping products: Cigarette taxes range from 60% to 76% of the purchase price across provinces, while vaping product taxes range from 5% to 38%.
  • Young people share vapes.
    • Virtually all young vapers (99%) have been offered someone else’s vape to use and almost the same amount (93%) have offered to share their own. This is worrisome given the current pandemic.

Disturbingly, the survey also found that many young vapers are now young smokers. Over one-quarter of young people say they began smoking cigarettes after they started vaping and over one-third know someone who began smoking after they started vaping. Only 17% report using vapes as a way to try to quit smoking. Those who both vape and smoke have an increased risk for stroke and heart attack.

"The time to act is now. Although there are varying protections in place across the country, a number of policy measures need to be implemented nationwide to strongly address the youth vaping crisis,” says Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdani, Director of Health Initiatives at the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and lead researcher for the study. “This includes the federal government implementation of a robust set of policies including a comprehensive flavour ban, excise tax, and capping nicotine levels. Provinces should also utilize taxation and raise the minimum purchase age to 21 (for both smoking and vaping).”

According to other recent Canadian research vaping among youth skyrocketed by 112% from 2017 to 2019. Vaping is linked to lung injury and increased blood pressure.

Protecting youth will not stop adult smokers who want to quit from accessing e-cigarettes which may have the potential to help them quit smoking.

About the survey

The survey included youth and young adults between 16 – 24 years who vaped at least once a week in the past three months for a total of 1871 respondents:

  • 1328 from British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and Alberta (Prairies) (2020 survey)
  • 543 from Nova Scotia (2019 survey)
  • A similar survey will be carried out in Quebec.

The 2020 survey was funded by Heart & Stroke and the 2019 Nova Scotia sample was funded by the Department of Health and Wellness in Nova Scotia, with contributions from Smoke-Free Nova Scotia and the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.

For more information

Megan Radford

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so people in Canada don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.