vaping-By Madeline Matcheski

        In Grey and Bruce County, it’s not uncommon to see students around town or school with a vape in hand. It has been normalized to the point that they are a common occurrence on school grounds.

        Vapes, commonly called e-cigarettes among other things, were originally invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik as an alternative to inhaling tobacco smoke. While its intended purpose is admirable, it has been found through various studies that e-cigarettes aren’t as effective as other methods of quitting like nicotine patches or prescribed medication.

In February 2022, Ruifeng Chen and colleagues used more recent waves of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study and found that smokers trying to quit using e-cigarettes were 7% less likely to succeed than those using other methods of quitting. 

If they are proven to be less effective why are they still on the market? Vapes are now being marketed towards a younger audience. With flashy colours and flavours, it’s not viewed as being harmful nor is it being promoted to cigarette smokers. 

        Last year, an Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey conducted by the CAMH questioned 2,225 students from Grades 7 to 12 from 122 schools and 31 school boards. 56% of students reported it was fairly or extremely easy to obtain e-cigarettes.

        15% of students reported using a vape in the past year, with 11.5% reporting use in the month. 28%, over 1 in 4 students, report having used a vape. While the control size for this sample was smaller due to Covid limitations, it is startling that this number is so high.

        I interviewed a small number of students in Grey and Bruce from 14- 20 to get their opinions and experiences. Youth report starting to vape as early as 10 years old and continue to today.

Brooke Tomsett, Youth Advisor in the Grey Bruce Health Unit reports knowing youth vaping as early as Grade 5.

 Responses were varied as to why, with people saying it was addicting, a habit, it tasted good or they vaped to deal with anxiety, stress and depression among other mental health conditions. Overall, the number one reason why individuals started vaping was simply curiosity. 

In addition, everyone who stated they smoked cigarettes admitted that they had had a history of vaping. While all those who vaped agreed that it was bad for your health, they still continued. A variety of studies conducted all over Europe and North America only confirm this, as they show that youth who vape are 3-4 times more likely to become cigarette smokers.

It “can have a gateway effect,” says Tori Arfin, a Public Health Nurse at the Grey Bruce Health Unit. Youth who vape are more likely to use other inhalant drugs like cigarettes and/or other substances. 

There is a misconception that E-cigarettes are just water vapour but this isn’t the case. They often contain a combination of water, nicotine, flavourings, and a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin base; and when heated, more hazardous chemicals are created/inhaled.

Its nicotine base (ranging from 0 to 20 mg/mL), can make it highly addictive. Grey Bruce Health Staff cautioned that it can take as few as 3 weeks for one to become addicted to vaping. ( ) Vape juice is known to absorb more easily which means less nicotine is expelled when exhaling. This can lead to anywhere between 0.5–15.4 mg absorbed in 15 puffs, the same as the amount absorbed by smoking an entire cigar. 

While it is safer than using common cigarettes, there have been a variety of side effects. Short-term effects such as bad breath and poor dental health can become noticeable. It can also lead to damage to the airways resulting in a sore throat, coughing, wheezing or trouble breathing. The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) also indicates that smaller doses can cause “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation, increased respiratory secretions, and abnormally low heart rate.”

Along with being extremely addictive, high concentrations of nicotine can lead to nicotine poisoning. This occurs when large amounts of the substance are inhaled or absorbed through the skin; both common occurrences when handling e-cigarettes. Symptoms of this include headache, nausea, tremors, vomiting, fainting and even seizures. 

There has been research to indicate that constricted and damaged blood vessels, higher blood pressure, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, increased risk of lung diseases, hearing loss, an increased risk of miscarriage and an increased risk of eye problems, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts, loss of skin elasticity can be linked to nicotine inhalation. While these are confirmed health effects of cigarette smoking, there isn’t sufficient evidence yet to confirm these side effects with vaping

Despite these symptoms, nicotine as a cessation aid is a smart option for those that wish to stop smoking tobacco. Cigarettes have an estimated 7,000 chemicals that can be removed by switching to other nicotine products. E-cigarettes aren’t approved cessation aids and research shows that nicotine replacement therapies where nicotine concentration can be more controlled are much safer. These include inhalers, nasal spray, patches, gum, or lozenges; which are either over-the-counter medication or can be prescribed to you by a medical professional.

More than nicotine, other chemicals created by the burning of e-cigarette juices can be harmful to the body. These chemicals include acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde and can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular disease. “E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. It can cause acute lung injury and COPD and may cause asthma and lung cancer,” details the American Lung Association

Dual using (both vaping and smoking tobacco) can lead to harmful health issues. A study conducted in January of 2021 which surveyed over 7,100 U.S. adults, examined the correlation between the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes and inflammation and oxidative stress. The research concluded that dual-use doesn’t lower the higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death. The misconception that you can slowly transition from smoking to vaping to better your health was proven untrue: the switch must be made immediately to avoid the effects of smoking. By using both substances at the same time, you are subjected to even more chemicals than if you used one or the other. Although there haven’t been intensive studies, more adverse effects are being linked to dual-use all the time.

Vaping can also be costly over time. A starter vape can cost anywhere from $5.00 to $60.00 depending on the type (disposable or reusable) and quality. It can cost also anywhere from $30-60 per month for coils and juice. As students become more addicted to these products the amount spent on them only rises.

With a variety of negatives to vaping, and if e-cigarettes are less effective than approved cessation aids, why are they marketed in the first place? How can we stop youth from vaping when it seems to be specifically targeted at them? 

Cigarette use among youth has declined every year as public awareness has spread. In a study done from 2001 to 2011 smoking rates in females aged 18 to 19 decreased from 34.2% to 18.5% and 15 to 17-year-old females, dropped from 22.3% to 8.7%. Males had a similar decline, 18 to 19 year-olds experienced a drop from 33.2% to 19.8%, and 15 to 17 year-olds saw a decline from 19.3% to 10.1%. Education and research on vaping and its side effects should be conducted to raise awareness to cause downward trends such as these.

For those that vape to deal with mental health issues, what other healthier options can we provide? For many, it is a distraction or form or self-medication. Tori identified that it can even  “become an unconscious behaviour and people don’t realize how much they are actually vaping.” Replacing this negative distraction with a more positive one like sports, fidgets or forms of art is a healthier option. 

Some studies even indicate that vaping has the opposite effect, it can instead “worsen anxiety and amplify feelings of depression.” Real stories from young adults on The Truth detail their experiences with vaping and how it caused their mental health to deteriorate as they felt that they became too addicted to quit.

“What happens over time is they rely on it to feel good,” Brooke states. The rush of dopamine that spikes with the use of vapes leave students chasing that same high. Before they are aware of it, they find it difficult to feel happy without the drug.

The outbreak of e-cigarette use among youth is startling and is something that should be acknowledged and discussed. There should be more investigation into why this product is so readily available and laws need to be put in place to stop the normalization of it. 


Special thanks to Brooke Tomsett and Tori Arfin for all of their amazing input and help!

Vaping Concentration
Cigarette Statistics
Canadian Student Statistics
Vaping Side-Effects
Vaping Costs

Other Sources you can check out:
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
Nicotine Replace Therapy