Background: E-cigarette use (“vaping”) has been on the rise. The 2020-2021 Youth and Young Adult Vaping Project, conducted by The Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia with funding from Heart & Stroke, aimed to examine the vaping behaviours, experiences, and product preferences of youth and young adult e-cigarette users in Canada.

Methods: Using an online survey, 3034 regular e-cigarette users (used a vaping product at least once a week for the past three months) between the ages of 16 and 24 and residing in one of ten Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan) were asked about their vaping behaviours (e.g., days vaped per week, number of vaping episodes per day, and number of puffs per vaping episode), experiences (e.g., co-use of other substances), and product preferences (e.g., nicotine concentration). This report details responses across the entire sample and further segments findings by age, gender, and region.

Results: The sample analyzed consisted of 3009 respondents. On average, respondents began vaping at the age of 15.79 years. More than half (53.1%) of respondents reported having tried to quit vaping, with many making several attempts. The average e-cigarette user engaged in vaping behaviour six days per week and had 30 vaping episodes per day, with approximately six puffs per episode. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, respondents reported vaping less days per week (five days) and a marked decrease to 23 vaping episodes per day but puffs per episode were nearly unchanged. On average, respondents spent between $13 and $22 per week on ecigarettes. The overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that they have both used someone else’s e-cigarette (97.8%) and shared their e-cigarette with others (92.2%). For those that have shared their e-cigarette, the average number of people the e-cigarette was shared with was 20. Around half (50.6%) of all respondents had experienced a negative health effect related to vaping. The majority of respondents reported exposure to vaping-related advertisements on social media platforms (70.5%). Users of pod-based devices constituted the largest proportion of respondents (64.9%). Almost all users used a flavoured vape juice at initiation (91.9%) and presently (90.3%). In most provinces, berry, mango, and mint/menthol were the most commonly reported flavours used at initiation and at present. Most users used vape juice containing the highest possible concentrations of nicotine (50-60 mg/mL)1 (64.3%). With respect to tobacco use, 64.1% of respondents were former users and 11.8% were current users. Current smokers used 17 cigarettes per week on average. A notable proportion of respondents (36.4%) indicated that they knew someone who started smoking tobacco after vaping. In the past 30 days, cannabis use (17 days of use) was more common than alcohol use (7 days of use).

Conclusions: This is the first research sample to include all Canadian provinces. Analysis of the total sample reveals concerning vaping behaviours among youth and young adults. Regular ecigarette users report similar vaping behaviour and experiences across regions, though a number of notable differences at the individual- and regional-level emerged from our findings. In this report, we discuss our findings in the context of viable policy options to limit the appeal and restrict the use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults across Canada. These include a comprehensive flavour ban, limiting permitted nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL, increasing taxation on vaping products, and increasing the minimum age of purchase to 21.

1 For those specifying the exact range of nicotine concentration used in their device