Tobacco, Vaping and Youth
Although youth smoking rates have decreased in the last decade, youth are increasingly taking up other forms of tobacco and nicotine products such as vapes, hookah and chew.
According to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey 2021, youth vaping is growing rapidly.
- Studies have shown that nicotine addiction is stronger when you start smoking or vaping at a young age
- When youth witness others using tobacco and vape products or when they use these products without thinking about the negative consequences, the idea of tobacco use and vaping can be viewed as socially acceptable
- Tobacco use has been found to play a role in the development of other drug dependencies, including alcohol, cannabis and other substances
There are many reasons why young people may start to use tobacco products:
- Friends or other peers may pressure them to use tobacco products
- Celebrities and popular media figures may glamorize tobacco use and vaping
- Advertising is directed at youth on youth-rated movies, video games and television shows
- Youth may see family members smoke or vape and imitate their behaviour
- Thinking nicotine may help them cope with stress
Unfortunately, many young people become addicted to nicotine before they realize the negative health risks.
Vapes, Hookah, Smokeless and Chew Tobacco
The trend of vaping has sparked concern. Nearly a quarter of Ontario students in grades seven to 12 reported trying an e-cigarette. Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey 2021:
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol produced by a vape device. Vape devices are known by several names including e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, or tank systems. They are also sometimes referred to by their brand name. Vapes contain four basic components: a cartridge or a tank to hold the e-liquid, a heating element known as an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece to inhale. E-liquids contain vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavouring and other additives. E-liquid does not contain tobacco, however, most of these products contain nicotine which is the highly addictive substance found in cigarettes.
Concerns about youth vaping include:
- The teenage brain is still growing making youth more vulnerable to nicotine addiction
- The lungs are also still developing, and vaping can expose them to various harmful chemicals
- Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future
- The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults
For more information, visit Vaping and ecigarettes.
Hookah, also referred to as waterpipe, goza, hubble bubble or narghile, is a device that can be used to smoke shisha, a moist tobacco or non-tobacco herbal product. Hookah has four parts – a head, a body, a bowl filled with water and one or more hoses with mouthpieces for inhaling the smoke. Charcoal heats the shisha located in the head of the device. Smoke is drawn into the bowl which is cooled by the water before the smoke is inhaled by the user. The water in the hookah does not filter out the harmful chemicals from the smoke.
Did you know?
- Smoking shisha for one hour is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes
- Smoke from shisha contains cancer-causing chemicals, carbon monoxide and tar
- The health risks from using hookah are similar to those of smoking cigarettes, including heart and lung disease
- Herbal shisha is not a healthy alternative to tobacco shisha
- Second-hand shisha smoke is harmful to others
Smokeless and Chew tobacco
Most types of smokeless tobacco including chew tobacco are held in your mouth, the tobacco is sucked on and the juice that forms is spit out as saliva builds up. Chew tobacco is hazardous because there are over 3,000 chemicals in chew, 28 of which can cause cancer. Some negative health effects of chew include:
- Loss of sense of taste and smell
- Staining of teeth, cavities, tooth loss, gum disease and bad breath
- Cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box
Second and third-hand smoke
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that goes directly into the air and the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker into the air. Second-hand smoke has over 4,000 harmful chemicals and has more tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine than what is inhaled by a smoker.
Third-hand smoke is the chemicals in tobacco smoke that are left behind on surfaces which get trapped in hair, skin, fabric, carpet, furniture and toys. For more information, visit Smoke-Free and Vape-Free Spaces.
Thinking about quitting smoking?
Quitting tobacco is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Other benefits of quitting include:
- More money in your pocket
- Less worry about smelly clothes
- No more bad breath, yellow stained teeth and fingernails
- Reduced facial wrinkles
- More energy and stamina
Teachers and community partners
Talking with youth about tobacco and vaping and incorporating nicotine use, prevention and awareness activities into your curriculum and programs can make a difference.
When talking to youth about tobacco products and vaping it is important to:
- Understand tobacco and vaping from a youth’s point of view – youth understand the issue differently based on their developmental stage
- Talk about the tactics used by the tobacco industry to make tobacco and vaping appealing to youth. Explain how the industry tempts youth to buy these products and/or engage in behaviours that might be harmful to their health
- Role play, practice and provide options on how to refuse tobacco/vape products to help youth prepare for situations involving tobacco and vaping with their peers
- Equip youth with the information, skills and motivation they need to make informed and healthy choices
Resources for the classroom and community groups
Are you looking for ways to incorporate tobacco use and vaping, prevention and awareness into your health and physical education curriculum or Healthy Schools action plan? Are you a community partner looking for ways to incorporate tobacco use and vaping, prevention and awareness activities into your existing programming? The following resources can help get you started:
- Curriculum Support Health Resources for Schools. A comprehensive list of tobacco and vaping use, prevention resources and links to community organizations for elementary and secondary schools
- For a list of activities to support tobacco and vaping prevention see the Sample Action Plan Activities (SAPA) for elementary and secondary students
- The Lung Association Talk About Series is an educational resource on tobacco, vaping, waterpipes (hookah), and recreational cannabis
- Not an Experiment is a digital toolkit to educate and build capacity among educators and youth champions about e-cigarettes and vaping, including an interactive, yet educational Escape Room-style activity
- QUASH. is a free smoking and vaping cessation program for youth and emerging adults (ages 14-30), that makes it easy to build a custom plan for quitting. Co-designed with youth and available across Canada in English and French
- Academy for Tobacco Prevention is an interactive card game and curriculum matched documents for grades 4-6
- The Healthy Schools Student Club Tobacco and Vape-Free Activity Guide is a resource to support student leaders to engage their peers in understanding tobacco and vape use and promote prevention through interactive displays, games and more. For more information, please contact your Healthy School representative or email @email
Parents play an important role in helping their child stay tobacco and nicotine-free.
Nicotine’s effect on the developing adolescent brain
The adolescent period is a time of critical growth and development making youth more susceptible to effects of nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco and vapes. Nicotine can interfere with youth brain development and causes changes in the brain making youth more susceptible to other substance misuse and risk-taking behaviours.
Talking with kids about tobacco use and vaping
Talking with your child is a good way to help them stay tobacco and nicotine-free.
Starting the conversation:
- Know your child(ren)
- How they feel
- What they like
- Who their friends are
- Talk about family stories and your experience with tobacco and vaping
- Ask questions about what they know and how they feel about tobacco and vaping
- Share some tobacco and vaping facts with them
- If your children’s friends use tobacco or e-cigarettes, disapprove of the USE of these products rather than disapproving of the friends themselves
- Look for opportunities to talk about tobacco and vaping
Remember, listening is just as important as talking.
If you use tobacco or vape, you can still talk with your kids
- Talk about your tobacco or vape use and why you do not like it or do not want your kids to start
- Talk about your struggles and journey to quitting
- Talk about your hope for their good health
If your child uses tobacco or vapes
- Keep calm
- Do not scold
- Talk about the facts and ask questions
- Talk about how you feel about tobacco and vaping and that you care
- Disapprove the tobacco or vape use, not the child
- Keep the lines of communication open
For more information on how to talk with your kids check out: Talking with your teen about vaping: a tip sheet for parents
- Substance Use Resources
- Vaping Fact Sheet
- York Region Public Health Cannabis Resources
- Vaping and E-cigarettes
- Smoke-Free and Vape-Free Spaces
- American Academy of Pediatrics - Straight Talk About Smoking
- Health Canada - Quit4Life
- Lung Health Foundation Talking About Series: Tobacco
- Smoke-Free Movies
- Truth Initiative – Nicotine Use and Stress
- US Department of Health and Human Services – Get Ready to Quit
- Cancer Care ON - Tobacco Wise