Eric Nadalin, Manager, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Department
Theresa Sarkis, Youth Engagement Specialist
Addressing Youth Vaping in Windsor and Essex County
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that mimic the tobacco smoking experience. These products work by vapourizing a fluid which is then inhaled into the user’s lungs in the same manner as a traditional tobacco cigarette. While the substances consumed within an e-cigarette can vary, they generally consist of a combination of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavouring agents, and in many cases nicotine, the highly addictive chemical found in tobacco. Recent increases in the popularity of these products among youth and young adults have led the United States Food and Drug Administration to declare e-cigarette use an epidemic among young people (U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2018), and in Canada student use of vaping products increased by 30% each year between 2015 and 2017 (University of Waterloo, 2017).
There are two pieces of legislation which regulate the promotion and sale of vaping products in Ontario. The federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) aims to address the rising popularity of vaping products among young people by placing restrictions on how they can be advertised. At the provincial level, the Smoke-free Ontario Act 2017 (SFOA) further regulates these products by restricting their sale to minors, regulating how they can be displayed in storefronts, and restricting their use in certain public spaces. The SFOA is enforced locally by the Tobacco Enforcement Officers (TEOs) at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) who inspect spaces proactively, ensure the region’s 223 e-cigarette vendors are operating in compliance, and conduct youth access test shopping inspections to discourage the sale of these products to minors. In spite of these protective measures there remains a lack of adequate safe-guards against the promotion of e-cigarette products in places where they may be observed by young people and other vulnerable populations. Promotions are commonly seen at point-of-sale in many convenience and grocery stores, as well as in locations like gas pumps or parking lots associated with the places in which these products are sold. In addition, efforts to prevent the use of these products are being countered by innovative technologies which include more discrete product designs and increased efficiency of nicotine delivery systems. These newer generation vaping products produced by companies such as JUUL©, VYPE©, STLTH©, or SMOK© deliver higher concentrations of nicotine per puff than older versions of e-cigarettes and, in many cases, even tobacco cigarettes (American Cancer Society, 2019).
Although there is little research on the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use and second-hand exposure, preliminary research has shown an association between use of these products and increased risk for the uptake and intensity of tobacco smoking (Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), 2018).
Prevention and Education
School Vaping Prevention Toolkit: In order to assist teachers and school administrators in providing students with credible and reliable information about the use of e-cigarettes and the associated health impacts, a toolkit has been created which will be provided to the WECHU Public Health Nurses on the Healthy Schools team. The toolkit includes:
- A guide for parents and teachers on “How to Talk to Teenagers about E-cigarettes”
- Fact sheets (for parents, teachers, and teenagers)
- Vaping prevention posters and postcards
- Training presentation for teachers about e-cigarettes and the health effects of vaping and vapour products
Elements of this toolkit have already been utilized in schools, but the full packages will be distributed to all secondary schools, and any other requesting schools, beginning September 2019.
Provincial Vaping Working Group: A representative from WECHU has joined a number of provincial partners to lead a project which will result in consistent messaging across the province for public heath units to utilize in their communication materials. This communication campaign will focus on the potential harms of vaping and is also set to be implemented beginning September 2019.
Internal WECHU Education Program: Staff will be educated through an e-module on the types of products available in the marketplace and how to speak with their clients about their use.
School-based Diversion Program: Based on school interest, WECHU’s Youth Engagement Specialist will offer an after-school youth diversion program to students caught vaping on school properties. This option may be utilized in lieu of ticketing students, with a goal of educating them on the health, legal, and financial implications vaping can have.
Protection & Enforcement
Secondary School Proactive Enforcement Inspections with Police Services: Starting in March of this year, WECHU TEOs conducted joint enforcement inspections at each local high school with officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, LaSalle Police Service, and Windsor Police Service. This “blitz” of secondary schools across the region has yielded 15 charges with fines ranging from $100.00 to $250.00 for the first offense. For many of these students, a Part 3 charge was issued requiring them to meet the WECHU’s lead Prosecutor and appear in court before a Justice of the Peace, in order to determine the amount of their fine.
School and School Board Presentations: Presentations to students about the e-cigarettes and the effects of vaping and vapour products are available to requesting schools for classroom or assembly presentations. Any school which has registered a complaint with WECHU have been offered the opportunity for such a presentation. In addition, WECHU TEOs, Health Promotion Specialists, and other staff members have provided presentations to school board representatives of the dangers of these products and WECHU’s role in enforcing the regulations which surround them.
Under 25 Electronic Cigarette Vendor Education Program: In addition to the mandated Youth Access Test Shopping inspections conduced by hired youth who are under the age of 19, the Under 25 Vendor Education Program has been implemented by WECHU since 2015. This program expands on the existing inspections which aim to reduce the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes to minors by educating vendors on their additional legal requirement to request identification from any one who appears to be under the age of 25. For the first time, this program grew in its scope to implement this program with e-cigarette vendors in addition to tobacco vendors.
Smoke/Vape-free Spaces Mass Media Campaign: Given the passing of the SFOA in October of 2018, and the spring and summer seasons bringing additional opportunities to enjoy several outdoor public places which are for the first time vape-free in addition to being smoke-free, a communication campaign including social media, live radio segments, radio ads, public transit ads and other forms of media will be implemented to educate the public about the new regulations.
- American Cancer Society. (2019). What do we know about e-cigarettes? Retrieved from American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/health-ri...
- Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). (2018). Current evidence on e-cigarettes: a summary of potential impacts. Toronto, ON: Queen's Printer ofr Ontario.
- U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. (2018). Public Health Consequences of E-cigarettes.
- University of Waterloo. (2017). Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey. Retrieved from Canadian Student Tobacco Alcohol Drugs Survey: https://uwaterloo.ca/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/