Lung Health Foundation and Ontario Ministry of Education Partner to Launch First Judgement-Free Initiative to "Quash" High School Vaping Crisis

Published: May 17, 2024

Lung Health Foundation and Ontario Ministry of Education Partner to Launch First Judgement-Free Initiative to

Canada has one of the highest vaping rates in the world, with the Lung Health Foundation (“LHF”) estimating that 750,000 people aged 30 and under are engaged in daily vaping. In a ground-breaking initiative, Lung Health Foundation, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Education, is tackling the pervasive issue of youth vaping head-on. With teens representing a disturbingly high percentage of young people who vape every day, LHF calls this addiction “dangerously discreet” — often unnoticed by parents and teachers despite its widespread prevalence.

Mixed evidence aside, vaping remains a popular tool for adults looking to quit smoking — but usage patterns among youth tell a different story. Based on the most recent Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS), of Canadian teens who vaped in the last month, 69% have never smoked. In fact, several studies have found that young people who vape are much more likely to start smoking in the future, compared to youth who don’t vape. As vaping continues to infiltrate the mainstream, Lung Health Foundation efforts underscore the urgent need for awareness and intervention to break the cycle, especially in the most dangerous developmental years of teens who vape.

Empowering Youth to Break Free from Nicotine Addiction with Quash
As World No Tobacco Day approaches on May 31, the Ministry of Education has provided $70,000 to the Lung Health Foundation to support an innovative school outreach initiative promoting the Foundation’s multipronged youth cessation program, Quash.  This positive initiative aims to be the real-world solution to smoking and vaping by offering judgement-free support to high school students looking to quit, as well as education sessions for educators and parents. It targets over 100 schools across Ontario before the summer break.

Six Ontario school boards representing thousands of students are participating in the Quash school outreach pilot program: Toronto Catholic District School Board, Near North District School Board, Simcoe County District School Board, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, Renfrew County District School Board and St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

Developed with funding from Health Canada, Quash combines a cutting-edge mobile app with comprehensive adult facilitator training. The Quash app, advanced with input from youth, draws on behavioural change theories like successful wellness apps Noom and Headspace. It empowers users to identify and overcome triggers, rewards progress towards quitting, and ultimately helps them regain control over addictive vaping habits, prioritizing their health and well-being.

A Holistic Approach to Nicotine Cessation
The Quash program takes a holistic approach to nicotine cessation, recognizing the complex factors that contribute to addiction. Through virtual adult facilitator training, school staff and parents can gain valuable insights and strategies to support students on their journey to a vape- and smoke-free life.

The program’s website serves as a hub for information, resources and support, ensuring that students, educators and families have access to the tools they need to succeed. By addressing the issue of youth smoking and vaping head-on, the Ministry of Education and the Lung Health Foundation are taking a proactive step towards empowering the next generation to make informed choices and lead healthier lives.

How Quash Works: Quit Vaping Now with the Quash App

“Simply talking about the problem will not make it go away, and advocating for change is no longer enough to curtail the growing health crisis among young Canadians who vape,” says Lung Health Foundation CEO Jessica Buckley. “The Lung Health Foundation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, recognizes there needs to be action that engages, educates and ultimately “quashes” the behavioural tendencies of teens who vape. We believe Quash accomplishes just that.”

“Think Noom for people who vape,” adds Buckley on the behavioural science behind Quash content. “It’s an integrated youth-driven and youth-developed program with real-world impact, distinguishing itself within its category by prioritizing youth input and engagement. Quash emerges as the most ambitious digital intervention tool today to assist youth in quitting vaping.”

The breathtaking truth about youth vaping:

Youth vaping is NOT harm reduction.
Of youth 15-19 who have vaped in the previous 30 days, 69% have never smoked. In fact, young people who have used e-cigarettes are up to 3.6 times more likely to transition to smoking cigarettes compared to young people who have not.

Youth vaping is worsening health equity, especially among two notable demographics.
LGBTQA+ youth are 1.5 times more likely to vape than heterosexual youth.
Indigenous youth are 1.5 times more likely to vape than non-Indigenous youth.

Youth vaping is NOT a coping mechanism.
31% of 15-19-year-olds who vape report that it’s a form of stress reduction, making it the most common reason youth report vaping. Youth with poor mental health are almost two times more likely to vape.
Some research has found that youth who vape are more likely to report anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

“Smash your goals (not your lungs)”
“We’ll never stop highlighting the negative health effects of vaping, but this campaign takes the message even further by including facts that speak to youth values — like the way that vaping can negatively affect appearance or athletic performance,” explains Erin Dufour, Implementation Manager for Quash at LHF. “These messages sometimes resonate even better than talking about the very real danger.”

With presence in hallways, bathrooms, gyms, cafeterias, locker rooms and other student gathering areas, there will be theme-specific graphic promotions and materials that students will immediately notice. “By fostering open dialogue and providing actionable resources, LHF is committed to creating a healthier, vape-free future for Ontario’s youth,” adds Dufour.

“We know that vaping is addictive and can cause serious, harmful health issues, both physical and mental. With high rates of vaping and cannabis amongst youth, it is clear we must take bold action to safeguard children from this risk,” says Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “Ontario is introducing zero tolerance on vaping by expanding education and investing in new supports that help promote healthy decision-making and curbing this addictive behaviour. By partnering with Lung Health Foundation and other community organizations and public health agencies, our government is restoring focus, safety and personal responsibility back into Ontario schools.”

The campaign is set to spark not just real conversation and debate on vaping triggers and habits in schools and at home, but to arm students, parents, guardians and educators with the ultimate tool to break free from the grip of vaping addiction, says Buckley. “This is especially important for high schoolers leading into exams and summer vacation when the opportunities and freedom to vape unnoticed are more frequent.”

It Takes a Village to Stop Teen Vaping in Ontario High Schools
To organizations like the Lung Health Foundation, fresh initiatives that deter vaping are a welcome early step in tackling this pervasive issue on high school campuses across Ontario.  To move this work forward, the government is investing $17.5 million in new wrap-around supports for student mental health and parent engagement. This will include:

  • $15 million to provide supports for students at risk of addictive behaviours.
  • $1 million to partner with School Mental Health Ontario to develop webinars and resources targeted to parents and students across the province to learn how to talk about the adverse effects of vaping and excessive cellphone usage.
  • $1.5 million to Parent Involvement Committees and students to run local prevention campaigns to help deter vaping and cellphone distractions.

“Our job is to educate our students, but also to keep them safe,” says Emily Samuel, Principal at Near North District School Board, one of the six school boards participating in the pilot program. “The Quash program gives us critical tools to work with students, parents and our teachers in a highly proactive and meaningful way. It is through a well-constructed educational initiative like this that we can help to curtail the teen vaping crisis.”

“Every year we learn something new and scary about vaping,” says Buckley, describing the breathtaking truth on the urgent need to address youth and vaping. “Vaping research is still in its infancy. We’re one of the few North American lung health charities allocating funds to devoted vaping research over the next five years.”

About Lung Health Foundation
The Lung Health Foundation is dedicated to improving lung health for all Canadians. Through a range of community initiatives, grass-roots educational programs, research, and advocacy, the organization elevates awareness and fosters a compassionate environment for those affected by lung conditions, including their caregivers. Building on the legacy of the Ontario Lung Association (OLA), which for over a century served as the recognized leader, voice, and primary resource in lung health, LHF has expanded its efforts nationally. To learn more visit or for further assistance email Visit us on Instagram @lunghealthfoundation, Facebook at lunghealthfoundation/, and on X at @LungHealthFdn.

RELATED LINKS: Learn more about this issue and access stats – Youth Vaping Policy Forum