Students’ plea: Vaping is a youth crisis, and we want our government’s help

Growing up in Southern Ontario in the 2000s, it was rare to see someone smoking. We were very fortunate to enjoy a childhood where our air was mostly free from second-hand cigarette smoke, especially since one of us struggles with asthma. 

Unfortunately, vaping changed all that. As e-cigarettes grew in popularity among our fellow middle and high school students, so did our concerns around these new products. 

A few years ago, e-cigarettes or ‘vapes’ became extremely popular in high school.  They became increasingly accessible and sold in appealing flavors such as Mango Tango and Vanilla. While there’s a mistaken perception among our generation that these products are harmless, many people who started years ago are still vaping to this day and some experience health issues.

Now, around our university campus, we see loads of students vaping, controlled by a habit they didn’t expect would become an addiction. This addiction comes with real consequences, which many young people are already seeing. Vapes can impact breathing, damage lung tissue and increase risk for cardiovascular disease.

Because of what we’ve experienced with our peers — and our resulting worry for the future health of our generation — it is painfully obvious to us that as a society, we should be doing everything in our power to prevent young people from starting down the road of vape addiction.

We believe that our province should do more to keep young Ontarians from starting or continuing to vape.

There’s a simple but effective step for the province to take.  Our government should participate in a federal vaping taxation plan, which would increase the price on e-liquids used for vaping. The federal government has set a vape duty which is in effect already, and this plan also allows the provinces to add their own tax of the same amount.

Research already demonstrates that taxes on harmful products limit consumption because of the rise in price, which discourages use; that means fewer young people becoming addicted to nicotine and vaping.

As university students on limited budgets, we can attest that price matters. A tax can also signal to people that e-cigarettes are not simply harmless “vapourized water” but that they are addictive and carry real health risks.

Eight Canadian provinces have already introduced a vape tax or have signaled interest to opt-in to the federal vape tax collaboration. Ontario and Manitoba are the only provinces to date that have not. The federal government has developed an implementation plan and has structured the tax in such a way that would provide much-needed revenue to the provinces.

We can’t understand why Ontario is delaying or even passing up a plan that not only would improve the health of young Ontarians, but also raise money that can be used to fund important services. Instead, the Government of Ontario seems content to let both the money and young people’s health slip away.

Because of our concerns around vaping and our generation’s health, we decided to co-found the McMaster Cardiovascular and Resuscitation club, an initiative started this year which aims to promote e-cigarette awareness and knowledge, increase CPR and automatic defibrillator training, and support cardiovascular research.

As young people with an interest in healthcare, we want to do everything in our power to help make Ontarians healthier and reduce the demand on the health care system in the long term.

We need the government of Ontario to do the same, and one of the easiest and best places it can start is by joining the federal vape tax program.

We would all then breathe easier.

Bianca Mammarella, third-year Integrated Science concentrating in Biologyand Mika’il Visanji, second-year health science students at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.