Seen as less harmful than smoking cigarettes and promoted as a way to quit smoking, vaping has also grown in popularity with youth who had no nicotine habit to break.
Superintendent for Fort La Bosse School Division Barry Pitz says “Yes, we have noticed an increase in terms of kids experimenting with vaping.”
He is disappointed that many youths are “experimenting” with vape e-cigarettes, because it means that a new generation may be getting hooked on nicotine.
Schools have, over the years, campaigned regularly on dangers of smoking.
“I think tobacco use was at an all-time minimum within the last 10 years,” Pitz says. “I think we have taken a fairly significant step backwards.”
According to a CBC series, The Road to Vaping, recent statistics show that “about a quarter of high school students across Canada are vaping.” (newsinteractives.cbc.ca)
Vaping – heating a liquid to a vapor and inhaling - has been linked to destructive lung conditions that can quickly cause severe illness.In national news, one Albertan was reported to be sick from vaping in late 2019.
To date, no cases have been reported within the Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority, but at this time, 15 vaping-associated lung illnesses have been reported Canada-wide, according to the Public Health Agency.
While tobacco use takes years to show up in illnesses like cancer, vape related lung illnesses have struck quickly. Home-made or altered vape juices have been implicated. A vitamin E acetate product, not legal in Canada, has been associated with vaping illness.
For smokers who want to quit, vaping may be a way to do that according to a blog from Harvard Medical School in Boston, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog.
Some vape juices contain much smaller amounts of nicotine than cigarettes provide. There are also zero nicotine juices available.
The Harvard report said, “It’s hard to overstate the dangers of smoking. Nearly 500,000 people die of tobacco-related disease each year in the US.”
While vaping has been embraced as harm reduction, some researchers say statistically few people actually fully stop using nicotine through vaping.
Vaping has an appeal. Vape pens are colourful gadgets, some sleekly sophisticated, and others are just a conveniently small, rechargeable device, and all marketed as safer than actually smoking cigarettes.
Vape devices provide a discrete way to consume tobacco or marijuana - no smoke, ashes, or butts. Flavoured oils (hundreds of flavors available) add to the taste and smell appeal.
Vape products are illegal for youth under 18, but the growing trend to the gadgetry of vaping has given health officials, educators and parents something new to worry about. The lungs of youth are more susceptible than adults to damaging chemicals, nicotine is highly addictive and THC (the psychoactive part of cannabis) has a stronger effect on the brains of youth than in adults.
Pitz says, “Our policy in Fort La Bosse addresses that the use of any type of tobacco is strictly prohibited in schools, on school property, at all times. There have been occasions when we have had to confiscate e-cigarettes, vaping devices, and certainly have worked with parents to notify, to make them aware.”
The schools have provided parents with a letter from the minister of education regarding vaping and just as educators have battled with smoking, they plan to bring awareness and information about vaping.
“It’s education, education, education…
“Anything on school property, we deal with because it is prohibited,” says Pitz, adding, “I think the issue would be, when they are given permission to leave school property at lunch hour.”