Dear Minister Petitpas Taylor,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to express our deep concerns with the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping products (i.e. vapes, mods and juuls) and the negative impact they have on youth health.
E-cigarettes and vaping products contain harmful substances, such as high concentrations of nicotine, cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals, which can lead to serious lung disease and other health problems. After years in a steady decline, new evidence suggests that youth smoking and vaping rates are now rising at an alarming rate (Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 2017) and that high schools are struggling to respond to the rapid increase among youth (University of Waterloo, 2019).
While tobacco advertisements have been regulated for many years, e-cigarette and vaping products are being promoted on social media and in convenience stores and gas stations - often with candy or fruit flavours that lure youth into using the product.
Recently, the US Centre for Disease Control reported that there are currently 380 confirmed cases of vape-related illnesses and six deaths, and declared youth vaping an epidemic.
To help educate our students about the risks of using e-cigarettes and vaping products, we have collaborated with Toronto Public Health to provide our educators with professional learning sessions and a website with lesson plans and resources so that they can provide students with accurate, non-judgemental information. We have also banned the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products on and within 20 metres of our school grounds.
The well-being of our students is, and always will be, a priority for the Toronto District School Board. We will continue to provide students with the important information they need to make decisions that improve their health and decrease their risk of harms; however, we strongly believe that this issue needs to be addressed at a higher level.
In conclusion, we are urging you to consider the following actions:
ban e-cigarettes in Canada until the science about the adverse health impacts is known, to ensure that these devices can be properly regulated to protect youth from severe pulmonary disease that has resulted in death in some cases;
remove flavoured e-cigarette products from the Canadian market;
provide additional regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing vape products, similar to the regulations in effect for the sale of alcohol and increased funding for enforcement;
provide advertising restrictions that are identical to those in effect for tobacco products to ensure that children and youth are protected; and
provide funding for schools to install vape detectors as a deterrent for youth vaping in schools.
As always, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this topic further.
Robin Pilkey, CPA, CA, ICD.D
Chair, Toronto District School Board