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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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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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Vaccines donated by the United States and China

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Both the United States and China have pledged large donations of COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. Washington has promised 80 million doses, three-quarters of which will be delivered via the international vaccine initiative COVAX, in what has been seen as an effort to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy. It began deliveries last week.

China had shipped vaccines to 66 countries in the form of aid, according to state news agency Xinhua. Beijing has not disclosed an overall figure for its donations but Reuters calculations based on publicly available data show at least 16.57 million doses have been delivered. China has also pledged to supply 10 million doses to COVAX.

VACCINES DONATED BY U.S. (plan for the first 25 mln):

Regional partners and priority recipients

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Including Canada, Mexico, 1 mln to S.Korea in June

South Korea, West Bank and

Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo,

Haiti, Georgia, Egypt,

Jordan, India, Iraq, Yemen,

United Nations

TOTAL 6 mln 1 mln

Allocations through COVAX

South and Central America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Brazil, Argentina, Colombia,

Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador,

Paraguay, Bolivia,

Guatemala, El Salvador,

Honduras, Panama, Haiti,

Dominican Republic and other

Caribbean Community

(CARICOM) countries

TOTAL 6 mln

Asia

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

India, Nepal, Bangladesh,

Pakistan, Sri Lanka,

Afghanistan, Maldives,

Malaysia, Philippines,

Vietnam, Indonesia,

Thailand, Laos, Papua New

Guinea, Taiwan, and the

Pacific Islands

TOTAL 7 mln

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

To be selected in

coordination with the

African Union

TOTAL 5 mln

VACCINES DONATED BY CHINA (source – Reuters calculations and official data):

Asia Pacific

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Afghanistan 400,000

Bangladesh Second batch of First batch of 500,000 delivered

600,000 on May 12

Brunei 52,000 in Feb

Cambodia 1.7 mln as of April 28

Kyrgyzstan 150,000 in March

Laos 300,000 in Feb

800,000 in late March

300,000 in late April

Maldives 200,000 in early March

Mongolia 300,000 in late February

Myanmar 500,000 in early May

Nepal 800,000 in late March

1 mln in early June

Pakistan 500,000 in early Feb

250,000 in Feb

500,000 in March

Philippines 600,000 in late Feb

400,000 in late March

Sri Lanka 600,000 at end March

500,000 in late May

Thailand 500,000 in May

500,000 in June

Timor-Leste 100,000 100,000 in early June

TOTAL 11.052 million

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Angola 200,000 in late March

Algeria 200,000 200,000 in Feb

Botswana 200,000 in April

Cameroon 200,000 in April

Congo 100,000 100,000 in March

Egypt 600,000 in March

Ethiopia 300,000 in late March

Equatorial Guinea 100,000 in Feb

Guinea 200,000 in early March

Mozambique 200,000 in late Feb

Namibia 100,000 by early April

Niger 400,000 in late March

Sierra Leone 240,000 by late May

Togo 200,000 in April

Uganda 300,000

Zimbabwe 200,000 in Feb

200,000 in March

100,000 in May

TOTAL 3.74 million

South America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Bolivia 100,000 in late Feb

100,000 in late March

Venezuela 500,000 in early March

TOTAL 700,000

Europe & Middle East

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Belarus 100,000 in Feb

300,000 in May

Georgia 100,000 at end April

Iran 250,000 at end February

Iraq 50,000 in early March

Montenegro 30,000 in early March

North Macedonia 100,000 in May

Syria 150,000 in late April

TOTAL 1.08 million

 

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo in Beijing and Cooper Inveen in Dakar; Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Coronavirus Worldwide right now

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus now:

Australia’s Melbourne to exit lockdown

Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week.

After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain at home except for essential business, Melbourne’s five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday.

However, people must stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.

Deliveries of Thai-made AstraZeneca vaccines delayed

Malaysia and Taiwan are expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said, the latest countries to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.

The delay comes amid concerns over AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Indonesia aims to speed up vaccinations

President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday he hoped Indonesia’s vaccination rollout will hit one million shots a day by July, as authorities opened up inoculations to anyone aged over 18 in Jakarta to contain increased transmission in the capital.

Health officials in the world’s fourth most populous country, which aims to vaccinate 181.5 million people by next year, are trying to speed up the rollout after facing some supply issues.

The president said he wanted vaccinations to hit a targeted 700,000 doses a day this month and then rise again.

Singapore finds Delta most prevalent among variants

Singapore has found the Delta variant of the coronavirus to be the most prevalent among local cases of variants of concern (VOCs), according to health ministry data, highlighting its level of infectiousness.

There were 449 local cases with VOCs as of May 31, of which 428 were the Delta variant first detected in India and nine of the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Singapore reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.

U.S. forming expert groups on lifting travel restrictions

The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Another U.S. official said the administration will not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work.

The groups will be led by the White House COVID Response Team and the National Security Council and include the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies.

 

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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