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By Jodi DeLong


Vaping and youth

The statistics are alarming. According to the Lung Association of Nova Scotia, 37 per cent of Nova Scotian students in grades 7-12 report having tried vaping, and 49 per cent of high school students have used a vaping device (pen, mod, e-cigarette) in the past month. In Canada overall, a relatively low 23 per cent of students grade 7-12 have tried these devices.

Vaping devices deliver a liquid containing addictive nicotine, propylene glycol, along with other cancer-causing chemicals, often wrapped up in a flavour to make them more appealing. Liquids can have varying levels of nicotine depending on where they are manufactured and purchased from, often containing more than in a regular cigarette.

Health Canada states that not only does nicotine lead to addiction and physical dependence, it can also alter brain development in teenagers, make depression and anxiety issues worse, lower impulse control, and affect memory and concentration. The product is also toxic if ingested by children and pets—even if absorbed through the skin. Because the products haven’t been on the market for that many years, the long-term effects of vaping are still undergoing research.

It’s important to have conversations with your children about vaping, and of course starting with honesty and a good example by not smoking or vaping yourself. Both Health Canada and the Lung Association have tools to help parents talk about the dangers of vaping, available on their websites. Of course, if you do use these products, it’s vital to keep them out of reach of children and pets, and locked away when not in use.


Collaborative research

The IWK Health Centre isn’t just about treating sick infants and children—there’s plenty of cutting edge research going on there, including much done collaboratively with researchers across the world.

In the 1950s, the survival rate in children who developed cancer was a mere 15 per cent. Thankfully, with research and treatment developments, that percentage is now up to 85 per cent. However, there can be lasting effects from treatments, and sometimes even relapses, says Dr. Conrad Fernandez of the department of hematology and oncology at the IWK. Hence the need for ongoing research on many fronts.

Pediatric oncology at the IWK usually has some 60-70 research trials ongoing, with as much as 40 per cent of patients participating. To assist with this ongoing research, the IWK belongs to an international organization called the Children’s Oncology Group, which allows sharing of research and data among its more than 225 participating centres.

This helps all the participants make inroads on cancers and children, and hopefully develop more effective and less damaging treatment protocols.


Canada’s new Food Guide

In January of 2019, the long-anticipated revised food guide for Canadians was released. Some were very happy about it—others, not so much.

The new guide moves away from specific food groups, and instead offers recommendations including eating “half your plate” of fruits and vegetables, with smaller amounts of protein foods such as meat, fish and poultry, legumes, nuts, tofu and dairy. It also suggests whole grain foods—brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat baking, among others—for the final one-quarter of your plate.

One of the main suggestions has to do with cooking from scratch, and avoiding prepackaged, so-called convenience foods as much as possible. There’s also some stress on taking time to eat with family and friends, not just to inhale something at your desk or in the car. Another significant recommendation is to drink mostly water, avoiding sugary beverages such as fruit juices, sugar-sweetened milk, and soft drinks.

There have been criticisms from the agricultural sector that the guide detracts from eating meat, poultry and dairy products, crucial parts of farming in the country. Others, including provincial government politicians, have expressed concern that there isn’t enough emphasis on supporting local agriculture and related industries. There is some question about the costs of following the food guide, and also about how to inspire children to eat more veggies, legumes and such.

For more on the food guide, and some great dietary advice, see our nutrition story on page 19.


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Credit for both images: Krystian Graba

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