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After a year of growing vaping concerns, critics urge the federal government to take control – Ottawa Citizen

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In recent years, vaping has gone from a phenomenon to a crisis among Canadian teens and young adults, say researchers.


Vaping may be helping some adults quit smoking, but use of vaping products among young people is growing alarmingly.


Adnan Abidi / REUTERS

Fifteen years after they were introduced in Canada, e-cigarettes made headlines in 2019 with a spike in vaping-related illnesses and soaring rates of youth vaping.

If 2019 was the year of the vaping scare, observers and critics are hoping that 2020 will be the year in which Canada gains some control over the issue.

Before the year was over the federal government began taking steps in that direction by announcing a ban on promotion of vaping products in spaces where young people could see them, including on social media. It also announced that e-cigarettes must carry mandatory health warnings and must be child resistant.

Critics want to see the government go much further when it comes to reducing teen vaping.

The mandate letter to newly appointed federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu suggests the government could go further. The letter, released in mid-December, tells the health minister to “tackle the rapid increase in vaping among young people,” in collaboration with other levels of government by taking regulatory action to “reduce the promotion and appeal of vaping products to young people and by educating the public to raise awareness of health risks.”

The federal government and others have their work cut out.

In recent years, vaping has gone from a phenomenon to a crisis among Canadian teens and young adults, researchers say.

In groundbreaking research, Professor David Hammond of the University of Waterloo found that between 2017 and 2018 vaping increased by a stunning 74 per cent among Canadian teens between the ages of 16 and 19. His ongoing research suggests there has been a similar increase in youth vaping in 2019 and Hammond believes numbers of youth vaping could go higher yet.

The Canadian Student tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs survey for 2018-2019 found e-cigarette use by students doubled between 2016-17 and 2018-19. Twenty per cent of students surveyed (approximately 418,000) had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, an increase from 10 per cent the last time the survey was done in 2016-17.

The figures are shocking, but likely no surprising to those who have been seeing the first-hand evidence in schools and other places teenagers frequent.

In Ottawa and elsewhere, schools have taken the doors off bathrooms to try to control vaping, without much luck. Teachers report students vaping in class — exhaling into the sleeves to try to hide it and vaping wherever they can.

The huge spike in teen vaping is likely related to high rates of nicotine in Juul e-cigarettes and other popular products.

Before Juul came along, there were almost no e-cigarette brands with more than 20 mg of nicotine for each millilitre of e-liquid. That is the limit in Europe. But in North America, Juul contains 57 mg of nicotine. The federal government only limits nicotine to 66 mg or below.

The biggest change in the market, said Hammond, is that Juul designed a product that could deliver higher amounts of nicotine while remaining smooth tasting. The result has been high rates of nicotine addiction, mainly among youth.

Along with spiking teen vaping rates, dramatic and deadly cases of vaping-related illnesses have been in the news, especially in the U.S. where 52 people have died and more than 2,400 have been hospitalized. In Canada, 14 cases of vaping related illness have been reported.

The acute illnesses and deaths in the U.S. have been linked to the additive Vitamin E acetate in THC in most cases.

A study published in December, found e-cigarette users were significantly more likely to develop long-term chronic lung disease than non-smokers.

The issues have occurred against a backdrop of weak or non-existent federal regulations in Canada, which has been consulting on tougher regulations. Some provinces have toughened their laws, including a ban on the sale of flavoured vaping liquid in New Brunswick and a reduction in nicotine levels in British Columbia.

Hammond said Health Canada has failed to properly regulate the product and as a result has failed both the adult smokers who could use them to quit cigarettes and the teenagers who have become addicted to nicotine.

E-cigarettes, he noted, are less harmful than cigarettes, but they are also highly addictive: “It might not make sense to sell them beside the chips and chocolate bars.”

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Meanwhile, many of the adult smokers who could reduce their harm by switching to e-cigarettes are no longer interested. “Adults don’t want to go near them. Everyone sees this as something 15-year-olds grab on the way to a party.”

Ottawa’s Dr. Andrew Pipe said the federal government needs to step up with tougher regulations. The existing regulations are tepid, he said, and have left a regulatory vacuum. Even the changes announced at the end of the year do not come close to what he and others want to see — notably banning flavoured e-cigarettes.

Pipe, who is considered the country’s foremost expert on smoking cessation, was instrumental in developing the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He wants to see flavoured e-cigarettes banned and limits on nicotine, in addition to the restrictions on where they can be sold and mandatory health warnings, which have been announced.

One of the sad ironies of the lack of regulation, Pipe said, is that the potential of e-cigarettes to be used as harm reduction “has now essentially been squandered. No responsible clinician is now going to entertain the use of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction aid. Their potential for harm reduction has gone out the window.”

Pipe urged the new federal minister of health to act strongly to turn around soaring youth vaping rates buy using emergency powers to expedite changes while longer-term regulations are being developed.

“We are dealing with an urgent, emergent public health issue which many have labelled a crisis.”

epayne@postmedia.com

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Mass COVID-19 vaccinations to begin in Montreal as province ramps up effort – WellandTribune.ca

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MONTREAL – Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign gets underway in earnest in the Montreal area today as the province begins inoculating members of the general public.

The province announced last week that it was booking appointments for seniors age 85 and up across the province, or 80 and above in Montreal.

Quebec began accepting appointments last Thursday, with nearly 100,000 booked on Day One of the campaign.

Some regions started vaccinating members of the general population late last week, but the campaign is expected to speed up considerably with the opening of mass vaccine clinics in the Montreal area, including one at the Olympic Stadium.

Outlying regions are mainly expected to ramp up after the March break holiday, which gets underway today.

Quebec has so far concentrated its vaccination effort on health care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in closed environments such as long-term care and private seniors residences.

The province has chosen to delay giving second doses in favour of administering a first jab to as many people as possible, but the province’s health minister said last week it will dole out second doses beginning March 15.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Saturday that the start of the mass vaccination campaign was giving him “a lot of hope,” even as he expressed concern about spring break week and the spread of new virus variants.

In a Facebook message, he urged Quebecers to remain vigilant for the coming weeks to allow the province to vaccinate more people, and to wait for immunity to fully develop in those who have received a shot.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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Mass COVID-19 vaccinations to begin in Montreal as province ramps up effort – Sudbury.com

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MONTREAL — Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign gets underway in earnest in the Montreal area today as the province begins inoculating members of the general public.

The province announced last week that it was booking appointments for seniors age 85 and up across the province, or 80 and above in Montreal.

Quebec began accepting appointments last Thursday, with nearly 100,000 booked on Day One of the campaign.

Some regions started vaccinating members of the general population late last week, but the campaign is expected to speed up considerably with the opening of mass vaccine clinics in the Montreal area, including one at the Olympic Stadium.

Outlying regions are mainly expected to ramp up after the March break holiday, which gets underway today.

Quebec has so far concentrated its vaccination effort on health care workers, people living in remote regions and seniors in closed environments such as long-term care and private seniors residences.

The province has chosen to delay giving second doses in favour of administering a first jab to as many people as possible, but the province’s health minister said last week it will dole out second doses beginning March 15.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Saturday that the start of the mass vaccination campaign was giving him “a lot of hope,” even as he expressed concern about spring break week and the spread of new virus variants.

In a Facebook message, he urged Quebecers to remain vigilant for the coming weeks to allow the province to vaccinate more people, and to wait for immunity to fully develop in those who have received a shot. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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From lockdowns to spring break, provinces split on next steps in COVID-19 fight – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Canada’s COVID-19 hotspots showed diverging approaches to handling the crisis on Sunday, as Ontario and Prince Edward Island prepared for new lockdowns while Quebec entered a week of spring break complete with some activities meant to ease the monotony of life during a global pandemic.

Prince Edward Island announced it was entering a 72-hour lockdown starting at midnight as the province struggled to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.

The short-term public health order was announced as officials reported five new infections of the disease in a province that has seen few cases for most of the pandemic. The Island has now recorded 17 new infections over the past five days.

Health officials identified two clusters of COVID-19 in the cities of Summerside and Charlottetown, and said it’s possible the island has community spread of the virus. The province has a total of just 132 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The three-day lockdown requires residents to stay home as much as possible and will close all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with post-secondary education moving online only.

“We would rather go harder and stronger now than wait for an outbreak like we have seen in other provinces that could put us in an extended period of lockdown for weeks or even months,” Premier Dennis King said late Sunday during a briefing with reporters.

Ontario, meanwhile, passed the 300,000 case mark on Sunday as the government prepared to hit a so-called ’emergency brake’ in two northern public health units grappling with surging case numbers.

The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka District health units will enter the lockdown phase of the province’s pandemic response plan on Monday in order interrupt transmission of COVID-19 at a time when new variants are gaining steam.

The province has also pushed back its spring break until April in an effort to limit community spread.

Quebec, in contrast, has allowed movie theatres, pools and arenas to open with restrictions in place to give families something to do as the traditional winter break kicks off, even as most other health rules remain in place.

The province opted to allow students and teachers the traditional March break, even though Premier Francois Legault has said he’s worried about the week off and the threat posed by more contagious virus variants.

Quebec’s health minister said the situation in the province was stable on Sunday, with 737 new cases and nine additional deaths – even as confirmed cases linked to variants of concern jumped by more than 100 to 137.

Most of the variant cases have been identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first identified in the United Kingdom, including 84 in Montreal.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 1,062 new infections linked to the pandemic on Sunday as it became the first province to record more than 300,000 total cses of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

The country’s chief public health officer urged Canadians on Sunday to continue following public health measures as a way of buying critical time as vaccine programs ramp up.

“Aiming to have the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible is a simple rule that we can all apply to help limit the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement.

Canada’s immunization program received a boost last week with the approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine, raising hopes that provinces will be able to inoculate their most vulnerable populations before the more contagious variants can fully take hold.

Toronto announced Sunday that it was expanding the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness, noting that they have a higher risk of serious health impacts due to COVID-19 and are vulnerable to transmission in congregate settings.

Quebec, meanwhile, is set to begin vaccination of the general population on Monday, beginning with seniors 80 and over in the Montreal area, or 85 and over in the rest of the province.

While some regions with extra doses began administering shots late last week, the pace of inoculation will ramp up on Monday when mass vaccination clinics in Montreal throw open their doors.

Case counts were more stable elsewhere in the country.

Manitoba reported just 50 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday and two new virus-related deaths, while Saskatchewan saw its overall tally climb by 181 but did not log any new deaths.

Alberta reported three new virus-related deaths and 301 new infections, including 29 identified as variants of concern.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia logged three new cases while officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported seven.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021

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