The new dangers of tobacco

New ways of using tobacco may pose familiar health risks

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, smoking causes about 85 per cent of lung cancer cases and an estimated 30 per cent of all cancer deaths in Canada. Up to half of smokers will die from smoking-related illnesses and most will die 10 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.

Katerina Maximova

The risks of smoking have been well researched for decades, and have informed tough anti-smoking legislation. But, School of Public Health researcher, Katerina Maximova, says these laws don't account for relatively new products like hookah and electronic-cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

"These alternative ways of smoking are slipping through loopholes in anti-smoking and tobacco legislation and into the marketplace," says Maximova.

Maximova says that Canada has been at the forefront of smoking interventions. "Canada pioneered using graphic images as a warning of the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages."

Canada has also been a strong example of imposing high excise taxes on tobacco products, legislating smoke-free spaces (in and around hospitals and schools, for example), and enforcing bans on marketing tobacco products, including event sponsorship.

"On my drive to work, I pass by a shop that advertises vaping products on a large outdoor banner," she says. "Compare that to cigarettes which cannot be advertised or even displayed in a store. They must stay out of sight, behind a curtain or in a closed cabinet."

Another contradiction: e-juice for e-cigarettes and shisha, the tobacco used in hookah pipes, is available in a variety of flavours to appeal to users while the sale of flavoured tobaccos has been banned in many provinces. Health Canada states that flavouring, such as menthol, masks the irritating effects of smoking, making it more appealing, especially to new smokers.

Maximova says recent research indicates hookah poses health hazards, and e-cigarette use may lead to smoking cigarettes. "But provincial and federal governments are slow to respond with interventions," she says.

In Maximova's opinion, Canadian legislation must be expanded to include hookah and e-cigarettes in its definition of tobacco products.

"If Canada is to continue to be a world leader in tobacco control, we need to take strong action on these new tobacco products."


How e-cigarettes work

E-cigarettes include a chamber for 'e-liquid' or 'e-juice,' a battery-powered heating device, atomizer and a mouthpiece. When the e-juice is heated, it produces a vapour, or aerosol, that is inhaled and exhaled (the act of 'vaping').

E-juices are flavoured and ingredients vary from brand to brand. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but the vapour produced may contain toxic particles linked to cancer, respiratory and heart disease.

Source: Canadian Medical Association

This is Public Health

Get updates on This is Public Health news and events.

Sign up for news and updates

More articles