CALGARY — Amber Noland remembers what it was like to struggle for breath as a medical team worked to save her life after the 18-year-old’s lung had completely collapsed.
In late October, Noland started feeling ill. A pain developed in her chest, and she had trouble breathing.
“I was in a lot of pain. Scary,” she said. “I thought it was something to do with my heart because it felt like it was right there in the middle.”
She went to a walk-in clinic and staff there sent her to the hospital.
Tests done at Calgary’s Rockyview General Hospital showed her left lung had partially collapsed. After being intubated, her lung began to re-inflate and she appeared on the road to recovery, but days later it collapsed entirely, requiring a life-saving emergency response.
“They asked me if I’d been smoking,” she said. “How much I’d been vaping.”
Noland was a smoker.
By her mid-teens, she was using both tobacco and cannabis but lately, she had turned to vaping as a way to quit the nicotine habit.
It did not work.
Instead she started vaping more and more.
“It really didn’t work. Made me more addicted, because there’s higher amounts of nicotine that I was inhaling,” said Noland. “It’s really addicting.”
Alberta has no provincial legislation to address vaping, however some municipalities have bylaws that restrict e-cigarette use in public places.
In October, the province announced it would conduct a review of Alberta’s vaping regulations and changes to the tobacco and smoking legislation will be proposed in the spring of 2020.
At the time, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province needs “evidence-based regulation of tobacco and related products, including vaping products.”
According to Shandro, Alberta has the second-highest rate of smoking in Canada, and the number of smokers has tripled in the province since 2014.
“Like most Albertans, I’m concerned about the rising use of vaping products, especially among young people, and recent reports of severe lung disease associated with these products,” he said.
Companies targeting kids
Les Hagen, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is concerned Alberta is the last province in Canada to enact regulations to control the vaping industry
“Here in Alberta, we have over 35,000 teens who are using vaping products and that’s 35,000 too many,” he said.
“One of the reasons is because we’ve allowed vaping companies and tobacco companies to target kids with flavored, appealing, high-nicotine content vaping devices.”
Noland said her medical emergency was a wake-up call, and vows to never vape again.
“I just want people to be aware of the things that can happen,” she said.
Her mom, Tara Noland, also hopes her story will alert others to the risk.
“It should serve as an example to others. I sure hope it does. And I sure hope it makes other people aware of the hazards of vaping,” she said.
Alberta stopped taking public submissions about new vaping regulations on Nov. 29.
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