A leading Canadian medical journal is raising concerns that electronic cigarettes could hook a new generation into nicotine addiction.
An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that with fruit flavoured products and movie star endorsements, e-cigarettes could lure youth who wouldn't otherwise smoke into a nicotine habit.
The editorial is written by Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a Toronto-based respirologist and an editor at the journal.
He says it may be tempting for society to embrace e-cigarettes based on the assumption that they help some people to quit smoking.
But he warns that some people use e-cigarettes to get a nicotine hit where they are not allowed to smoke and continue to smoke regular cigarettes as well.
In Canada it's not legal to sell e-cigarettes with nicotine, but vials of nicotine for e-cigarettes can be purchased in the U.S. or ordered over the Internet.
Stanbrook says the products could also undermine the most effective tool governments and public health officials have used to drive down smoking rates in society — the restrictions on smoking in workplaces, in restaurants and bars and many other public settings. These policies have de-normalized smoking, making the practice both inconvenient and socially unacceptable in the eyes of many.
"It was to make it more and more inconvenient to continue their addiction so that they were finally motivated to quit, as the overwhelming majority of smokers want to do anyway but can't," says Stanbrook, who practices at Toronto Western Hospital.
"So anything that reverses that most effective tool we've ever invented is of concern."
The editorial comes as the Canadian Cancer Society calls on federal and provincial governments to ban all flavoured tobacco products.
Data from the national Youth Smoking Survey, released today, show that more than half of high school students in Canada who used tobacco products in the previous 30 days reported having used flavoured tobacco products.
While the federal Tobacco Act bars the use of flavours — except menthol — in cigarettes, cigarillos and blunt wraps (flavoured rolling papers), there are ways around the ban, the society says in a release.
For instance, the act defines cigarillos as weighing 1.4 grams or less. Some tobacco companies have produced flavoured cigarillos that weigh over 1.4 g, thereby sidestepping the regulation. As well, there is no prohibition on flavouring tobacco used in water pipes or smokeless tobacco.
The Youth Smoking Survey found that among high school students, 14 per cent had smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days, 20 per cent had used a tobacco product in the previous 30 days and 10 per cent had used a flavoured tobacco product (including menthol cigarettes) in the previous 30 days.
"Swift action is needed to protect youth from these products. It is essential that governments introduce new legislation without delay," says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society.