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Cannabis Vaping Among Youth


November 19, 2022 Addictions


Par Francis Zola Nzakimuena

Planning, Programming and Research Officer

Youth vaping cannabis is increasingly discussed in the media. Various experts are sounding the alarm about this increasingly popular behaviour.

What is vaping?

Vaping is when you inhale and exhale an aerosol produced by an electronic cigarette device (e-cigarette, vapourizer, vaporette or personal vape). Since this process does not involve combustion, vaping is a safer option for established smokers. However, vaping also poses risks to the lungs, brain, and other organs. Therefore, vaping is not recommended for young people or for people who have never smoked.

Vaping on the rise in Canada among youth

Currently in Canada, vaping is on the rise among youth. In addition, cannabis, the most widely used drug in the country, is now available in vaping products consumed by at least 30% of youth who vape. 

In Quebec in 2022, 70% of users aged 15 to 17 years old are vaping cannabis. This figure was only 25% in 2019 and 44% in 2021. These products are mainly available on the street. In addition, cases of intoxication have been recorded in the emergency room in Laval as well as calls made by Laval residents to the Quebec Poison Control Centre for suspected poisoning.

What makes vaping attractive to youth?

This product's appeal is primarily due to 2 misconceptions:

  • The idea that cannabis is less harmful than other drugs;
  • The low risk of vaping compared to smoking.

In addition, the product design and marketing techniques, as well as the legalization of cannabis, also increase the popularity of these products among young people.

Dab pens or Wax pens and cannabis vaporizers

These devices heat a substance that produces an aerosol that reaches the bloodstream via the respiratory system. These substances can contain cannabis concentrates alone or in combination with nicotine, synthetic cannabis, LSD, etc.

The risks associated with these substances

Cannabis vaping products expose young people to risks associated with the substances itself as well as how it is consumed. Tetra-hydro cannabinol (THC) is often very highly concentrated and can cause acute mental and physical problems such as paranoia, psychosis, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and weight loss.

The flavourings and other highly processed substances found in cannabis can be harmful and carcinogenic. When consumed regularly in various forms, the THC in cannabis can accumulate in the body and cause long-term problems with learning and decision-making, early heart attacks, schizophrenia, addiction, and various other health problems.

The earlier in life the drug use begins, the greater and more persistent the long-term effects.

The device, for its part, exposes the individual to injury from malfunction or explosion, as well as from accidental poisoning in young children who may mistake it for candy or a toy.

What drives youth to use drugs?

Drug, alcohol, and cannabis use among youth is linked to many personal, family, and environmental factors. Because of their own developmental characteristics, young people will often start using out of curiosity or as a result of peer pressure or influence.

The evolution of the behaviour over time and its consequences will also depend on several factors. Young people often have less information about the risks they face. In addition, at their stage of development, it is difficult for them to anticipate the long-term consequences of their actions. They also often have a sense of invulnerability that may explain their risk-taking.

What to do if you are concerned about your teen's substance use?

As a parent or meaningful adult, it is very important to have a dialogue with your young person. This should be a non-judgmental and non-dramatizing dialogue that uses true, verifiable, and age-appropriate information. It is also important that the young person develops assets that will help them cope with potentially stressful situations, such as:

  • self-awareness
  • behaviour aimed at their own well-being and that of others
  • social engagement
  • the ability to make informed lifestyle choices
  • the ability to ask for help
  • ability to manage emotions, stress, and social influences

To foster these assets, youth need to be informed, educated, listened to, considered, valued, and provided with recreational activities that will help them feel good about themselves.

Available resources

Various institutional and community resources exist to help the young person and their loved ones. For example, if you are concerned about your child's well-being and substance use habits, you can visit the Find Your Resource site to get the information you need.

 To learn more about substance use and addictions, please read our other publications.

References (in French)

Gouvernement du Canada, Enquête canadienne sur l’alcool et les drogues
Gouvernement du Canada, Tabagisme, vapotage et tabac
Paediatrics & Child Health, Cannabis vaping: Understanding the health risks of rapidly emerging trend
Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Effets sur la santé de la consommation quotidienne ou quasi quotidienne à long terme de cannabis
Institut de la statistique du Québec, La consommation de cannabis et les perceptions des Québécois
Gouvernement du Québec, Loi encadrant le cannabis
Institut national de santé publique du Québec, L’usage de substances psychoactives chez les jeunes québécois
ÉKIP, Santé, bien-être et réussite éducative des jeunes
Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, Guide à l’intention du milieu scolaire et de ses partenaires pour la réussite éducative, la santé et le bien-être des jeunes
MSSS, Système d'information de gestion des départements d'urgence. Données extraites à partir de l’Infocentre de l’INSPQ (Compilation faite en avril 2022 par l’équipe surveillance de la direction de santé publique du CISSS de Laval)
Centre antipoison du Québec (CAPQ), Fichier TOXIQUE; MSSS, Estimations et projections démographiques, produit électronique (1996-2036: version mars 2015) selon la table de correspondance des territoires 2014-2015 de la version du M34-2014. (Compilation faite en juillet 2022 par l’équipe surveillance de la direction de santé publique du CISSS de Laval)