The 2020-2021 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project:
Key Findings and Recommendations from the Prince Edward Island Data
E-cigarette use (“vaping”) among youth and young adults is an epidemic. Between 2017 and 2018, vaping among Canadians aged 16 to 19 increased by 74% and continues to increase [1,2]. 20% of Canadian students in grades 7 to 12 are current e-cigarette users, and 40% of those are daily/almost daily users . Recently, research has been conducted on the subjective experiences , perceptions , and expectancies  of e-cigarette use. To extend this past research, the 2019 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Survey was conducted to better understand vaping behaviour among 16 to 24-year-olds in Nova Scotia [7-8], and this was replicated in all other provinces between April 2020 and January 2021.
The 2020-21 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project was conducted by The Lung Association of Nova Scotia, made possible through funding by Heart & Stroke and other partners, to better understand vaping behaviour, experiences, and product preferences among regular e-cigarette users aged 16 to 24 across Canada. The initial results of the national survey were reported in September 2020 where the previously collected Nova Scotia data and data from five other provinces, from which data was collected in April and May 2020, was included. Data collection for the remaining provinces, including Prince Edward Island (PEI), was conducted between November 2020 and January 2021. A final report of all Canadian provinces was completed in March 2021.
This brief consists of some findings from the PEI data and can be used for the purpose of advocacy in non-media avenues. This work was completed by staff at the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.
In PEI, a single, cross-sectional survey, offered in English, was advertised online using paid Facebook and Instagram ads. To participate, participants had to be between the ages of 16 and 24, to have vaped at least once a week over the past three months, and to have resided in PEI at the time of the survey. The entire data for PEI was collected between November and December 2020 and consisted of a sample of 273 participants. The survey included demographic questions, questions about the participants’ vaping behaviour, product preferences, experiences, a personality questionnaire, and a substance use motives questionnaire. On average, the survey took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Participants who completed the survey in its entirety were offered a $10 electronic gift card as renumeration. Further, all participants were invited to share their email address to be entered to win one of five $100 gift cards from a prize draw, regardless as to whether they completed the survey.
Summary of demographics and vaping characteristics
- 34.4% of the sample identified as male and 65.6% identified as female. No participants identified as “other.”
- 51.3% of participants were youth (16-18 years old) and 48.7% were young adults (19-24).
- 58.2% of the sample was employed.
- 67.6% of participants reported living in urban regions.
- The average age of vaping onset (first time vaping) was 15.75 years old.
- Participants reported vaping, on average, 6 days per week, 33.26 times (episodes) per day, and took 5.93 puffs per vaping episode.
- Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, participants reported less vaping behaviour compared to pre-pandemic: 5.58 days per week, 29.40 times (episodes) per day, and 5.55 puffs per vaping episode.
- Of youth participants, 62.6% reported that their parents were aware of their vaping behaviour.
- 42.2% of participants reported negative experiences (e.g., health effects) from vaping.
Summary of key findings, supporting evidence from other studies, and recommendations for policy action
Given the findings from the survey, the following are 4 recommendations to combat youth and young adult vaping with reference to supporting evidence from other research.
- Implementing a comprehensive flavour ban. Reducing access to flavoured products will lessen the appeal of vaping to youth and young adults.
- 88.6% of participants currently prefer using flavoured vape juices, and 90.1% began vaping using a flavoured vape juice.
- Berry, Menthol, and Mango were the most commonly reported flavours used by participants, whereas Tobacco was the least common.
- 38.1% of the 226 participants who prefer flavoured vape juices reported they would not continue to vape if they could not purchase flavoured juices.
- Non-tobacco flavoured products are more appealing to youth than tobacco flavoured products [9,10].
- Limiting permitted nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL. Youth and young adults that are vaping are using high concentrations of nicotine which facilitates nicotine dependence.
- Although only 81.0% of participants reported using vape juice containing nicotine at vaping onset (first time vaping), 93.0% reported currently using vape juice containing nicotine.
- 75.0% of participants that used nicotine products used the highest permitted nicotine concentrations (50-60 mg/mL).
- Of participants that reported attempting to quit vaping (56.8%), the average number of serious quit attempts was 3.77.
- Of participants that reported former or current tobacco use, 24.2% reported using tobacco for the first time after trying vaping.
- Use of higher nicotine concentrations among youth may facilitate more excessive smoking and vaping .
- Youth e-cigarette use is associated with later smoking initiation [12–14].
- Increasing taxation on vaping products. Vaping is affordable relative to smoking cigarettes and increasing the cost of these products can deter young users.
- Participants spent on average $21.50 CAD per week on vaping products, which is substantially less than what a regular smoker would spend on cigarettes per week ($100+). Thus, we would expect a regular smoker who uses a half-pack of cigarettes per day to spend at least three times more than that per week.
- Young people are more sensitive to price increases on tobacco products (and thus less likely to purchase these products) than adults [15,16].
- Increasing the minimum age of purchase to 21 years. Underage youth can access vaping products and increasing the minimum age will permit fewer opportunities for youth to access vaping products through social sources of legal age.
- 86.1% of participants reported offering their e-cigarette to someone else to use. Of these participants, the average number of people who have used their e-cigarette is 17.18.
- 31.5% of participants reported purchasing their vaping device from a friend, and 31.9% reported purchasing their vape juice from a friend.
- Social sources are a common way that underage youth access vaping products [7,17,18].
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