Vape ’em if you’ve got em: Ontario students are ditching regular cigarettes for their e-cigarette cousins, a CAMH survey has found.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released its 2015 survey on Ontario students’ drug and alcohol use on Wednesday. The survey, which is done every two years, asks students from grades 7-12 about their drug use over the past year.
Here are some of the most interesting findings:
1. E-cigarettes have overtaken regular tobacco use
12 per cent of students reported using e-cigarettes in the past year, compared to eight per cent who smoked a regular cigarette. This includes e-cigarettes with and without nicotine – in many cases, the students themselves didn’t know what kind they had smoked.
“I think a lot of public health efforts have been put into reducing smoking of tobacco cigarettes,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, a research scientist at CAMH and co-lead on the survey project. These public health campaigns seem to have succeeded – to a point anyway.
“We want [cigarette use] to be much lower,” she said.
But the trend could indicate some persistent misconceptions when it comes to the health risks of cigarette alternatives.
“I think there is an assumption or a belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes,” she said. “The problem is that the data, the research to date is inconclusive with respect to the impacts or effects of e-cigarettes.”
2. More students have taken prescription opioids recreationally than smoked a cigarette
How uncool have cigarettes become? More Ontario students report non-medical use of prescription opioids than smoked cigarettes in the last year. 10 per cent of students report using an opioid pain reliever non-medically, compared to eight per cent who smoked cigarettes. 59 per cent of opioid users said they obtained the drug from someone at home.
This comes as prescription opioids take a growing toll on Canadians. In 2011, Ontarians were more likely to die from prescription opioid overdoses than as the driver in a car accident.
“You’re using drugs without a prescription, without your own prescription. So you’re using them without medical supervision. And they’re highly addictive,” Hamilton said.