*HINT: It’s not the flavours*
Youth are using ultra-high nicotine vapes to get high.
Electronic cigarettes and vaping products have been on the market commercially for about 15 years. Vapes have always been available in many flavours, including fruity and candy flavours. It is been only in the last few years that there has been an unfortunate growth in the use of vaping products by teenagers. If a product has been around for 15 years and then suddenly gains popularity in a particular demographic, we need to look at changes made during this period of time to determine what factors led to this change.
What has changed?
A few years ago nicotine salts came along and pre-filled pod systems started gaining popularity among new vaping customers. Using a chemical reaction, nicotine manufacturers were able to greatly reduce the throat discomfort when vaping e-liquids with high nicotine levels. This allowed individuals to use very high nicotine levels without any discomfort.
Shortly thereafter the JUUL company started manufacturing e-liquids in very high concentrations of nicotine never before seen on the market. Until around 2016, the highest nicotine levels available commercially were 24mg. With the innovation of nicotine salts, we started seeing vape pods with nicotine levels as high as 60mg. This is almost triple the highest nicotine option available on the market before JUUL started commercially selling their products.
Do you want to know what the most popular nicotine strength is that we sell? 3mg. This is 20 times lower nicotine levels than is available in some commercially available vaping products. In fact, over 95% of our liquid sold is 16mg or below. In my opinion, there is no current smoker in the world that would require 60mg e-liquid in order to quit smoking.
With nicotine levels this high in JUUL pods the user, especially if they are not a current smoker, is likely to experience a euphoric high similar to smoking a joint when vaping. I believe this high is the catalyst behind why more teenagers are using these vape products. Anecdotally I have spoken with more than twenty teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 and without exception every teen suggested they see their friends using vaping products at parties with the intentions of getting high. This is a gross misuse of vaping products akin to huffing paint thinner, or using prescription drugs to get high. Vaping was never designed or created for this purpose.
My strong recommendation for our government to limit the nicotine levels within vaping products to a level that it would still have maximum effectiveness for smokers converting to vaping, but not so much that it would cause an intoxicated sensation. I believe this single action will greatly reduce youth vaping by removing the potential to misuse the product. The maximum nicotine level I would recommend would be 20mg.
At Canada Vapes, we cap our e-liquid nicotine levels at 24mg, and cap our nicotine salt levels at 36mg/ml. We are strongly considering further reducing these levels to 20mg/ml across all of our e-liquids. I think more manufacturers of vaping products should consider doing the same in an effort to reduce the problem of teen vaping in Canada.