Why the Lung Association, Heart & Stroke peddled nicotine ice cream

The health orgs collaborated to get parents thinking about the risks of vaping for youth.

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The Canadian Lung Association and Heart & Stroke created a uniquely flavoured ice cream to warn parents about the dangers of vaping.

In its latest awareness campaign, “Flavoured Vapes Hook Kids,” an ice cream truck peddles nicotine-flavoured dessert near Toronto’s Rogers Centre and captures the outraged reactions.

The two health charities warn that while some adults may use vape products to quit smoking, the addition of attractive, discreetly packaged “yummy” flavours have made it appealing to youth, while devices that are discreet or resemble everyday items make them easy to hide from authority figures.

Marketa Stastna, communications and marketing manager at Canadian Lung Association, admits that it’s a fairly traditional charity when it comes to its marketing, but added that “vaping as a whole is something that has turned into a crisis and as such, a bold approach is what was needed.”

According to the latest research, 83% of youth aged 15 to 19 have tried vaping, while kids as young as 12 have experimented with the product. In the last year, the organization says, the number of Canadian teens who have used a vape has increased by 74%.

Stastna says that that the release of an ice cream-centric spot in the dead of winter, provided an added “shock value to the nonsensical nature of the satirical video.”

While the Association continues to create strategies for youth, who Stastna says still see vaping as a harmless indulgence, this messaging was intended to reach teachers and parents, the charity’s existing audience.

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In a 2019 statement, Heart & Stroke – which collaborated with the Lung Association on the campaign – said it was very concerned that increased vaping will prove to be a gateway to smoking among youth and could reverse the hard fought advances made in tobacco control in Canada. Organization spokesperson Dr. Andrew Pipe said the amount of nicotine delivered by vaping devices can be higher than a conventional cigarette, depending on how it is used.

“It is not just water vapour,” Stastna says. “The aerosol in released from vape pens creates harmful chemicals that can cause long-term harm to lungs. Flavouring these products with yummy flavours masks some of the known and unknown dangers.”

The current campaign builds on efforts the organization made in September, when it and like minded organizations appealed to the federal government to put an interim order in place to put vaping products under the same restrictions as tobacco products. The organization wanted the campaign launch to align with the national development of resources for the public to understand more about vaping.

Accroding to Stastna, the Lung Association has has worked with Heart & Stroke on a number of advocacy related projects in the past, and that both organizations were equally involved in the process. Publicis’ Toronto office developed the pro bono digital-only concept, as well as the videos. The Association has been collaborating with Publicis since early fall 2019 on this idea. North Strategic supported media outreach.