The Regional Municipality Of York


Tobacco, Vaping and Youth

Good news – youth smoking rates have significantly decreased in the last decade. According to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (2017), about seven per cent of students from grades seven to 12 reported smoking in the past year. However, there is still work to be done as youth are increasingly taking up other forms of tobacco like chew, hookah and vapes.

  • Studies have shown that nicotine addiction is stronger when you start smoking or vaping at a young age
  • The idea that tobacco use and vaping is socially acceptable can be developed when youth witness others using tobacco products or when they use themselves without negative consequences
  • Tobacco use has been found to play a role in the development of other drug dependencies, including alcohol 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 and Chew Tobacco


The trend of vaping has sparked concern. Almost 23 % of Ontario students in grades seven to 12 reported trying an e-cigarette.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol produced by a vape device. Vape devices are known by several names e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems and Juuls.  Vapes contain four basic components: a cartridge or a tank to hold e-liquid or e-juice, a heating element known as an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece to inhale. E-juice contains highly addictive nicotine and many toxins.

Concerns about youth vaping include:

  • As a teen, the 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

Chew tobacco

Most types of 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

Visit Know What’s in your Mouth to learn more about chew tobacco.

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 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

For more information, visit Health Canada’s Quit4Life. If you need help. call York Region Access York at 1-877-464-9675 TTY (for those with hearing disabilities) 1-866-512-6228 or email

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Teachers and community partners

Talking to 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 tobacco products and/or engage in behaviours that might be harmful to their health
  • Role play, practice and provide options on how to refuse tobacco 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 group

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
  • 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
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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 to kids about tobacco use and vaping

Talking to your child is a good way to help them stay tobacco and nicotine-free.

Starting the conversation:

  • Know your children
    • 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, disapprove the tobacco product or vape, disapprove the use, not the friend
  • 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 to your kids about tobacco products

  • Talk about your tobacco or vape use and why you do not like it or do not want your kids to start
  • Tell your children 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
  • Tell them 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 to you kids check out: Talking with your teen about vaping: a tip sheet for parents

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