School District 71 wants something done to tackle vaping among young people.
Superintendent Tom Demeo brought up the matter at the Oct. 22 board of education meeting during his report to the trustees, saying the issue had come up during recent meetings with other superintendents and assistant deputy minister Jennifer McCrae.
As Demeo put it, every school district is dealing with this. He also referred to a presentation from Island Health’s medical health officer about the habit among young people.
“Other places are now realizing the impact,” Demeo said.
At the end of the meeting, the board also considered a letter from Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone asking school trustees to put pressure on the Province to address the surging rates of vaping among youth. In the letter, Stone cited a British medical journal article that estimates vaping in Canada among people aged 16 to 19 had increased 74 per cent since last year and that 30 per cent of B.C. teens in grades 10 to 12 vape on a regular basis. In response, trustee Sheila McDonnell made a motion, which the board passed, to send a letter to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to take action to fight vaping among young people.
During his presentation to the board, Demeo said a challenge will be how to educate communities and parents that vaping is not acceptable.
“This is not a viable option or alternative,” he said. “To combat this is not just going to be a one-prong approach…. We all need to be together on this one.”
The good news, Demeo says, is a sense the Province wants to work together with communities and school districts.
“We were encouraged,” he said. “This is a conversation that will be continuing…. This is something we need to deal with.”
The bad news is the growth of vaping, itself, especially among young people. E-cigarettes and vaping were touted as an alternative to smoking with fewer health effects. While Health Canada says the nicotine is not a known carcinogen, it is highly addictive, especially when flavoured, and can affect brain development among teenagers. The federal government also admits everyone is still learning about the effects of vaping, especially what they will be over the long-term.
There are also concerns about marketing vaping products to kids. Board Janice Caton and assistant superintendent Geoff Manning discussed a video of an experiment involving secondary school students, teachers, principals and parents to try to identify 15 vaping products in classroom. Most could only pick out three. These products can be disguised in items like erasers and hoodies.
“You can’t tell me this stuff is not being marketed to kids,” Demeo responded.
During discussion, the board touched on topics of bans or restrictions on advertising, legislation and education.
“I think this is something that has come to light, and everybody is trying to figure out how to deal with this,” Demeo said.
Every school district has looked at it, he added, and local high schools have sessions planned with their communities about the issue of vaping.