Okanagan-Similkameen school board urges province to take action against vaping

School District 53 is the latest school district to push the province to take action

The chair of the Okanagan-Similkameen school board is concerned about the increasing number of young people who are vaping and has asked the Minister of Health to take immediate action.

In a letter dated Oct. 15, chair Robert Zandee urged Minister Adrian Dix to join jurisdictions across Canada to take immediate action to stop youth from vaping in B.C. by providing “evidence-based awareness, prevention and support programs to educate youth.”

READ MORE: First case of ‘probable’ vaping-related illness in B.C. ‘not surprising’: UBC prof

Zandee said school boards across the province have no-smoking policies on school grounds that include e-cigarettes and staff have been educating students about the dangers of vaping, but not enough is being done to discourage the unhealthy habit once students leave school.

Better regulations on the sale and advertising of vaping products would help, but Zandee said more resources are needed for education and awareness.

“The scary thing is there is no long-term study on any of this stuff so the problem is when you have something that is bubble-gum flavoured, it’s easy to get into and people don’t realize they are getting addicted,” he said. “These are things that need to be clamped down on.”

Since vaping related illnesses started popping up in the United States and Canada over the summer, Canadian cities have been making efforts to ban the advertising of products. In mid October, city councillors in Richmond voted to ban vaping ads on government property.

Health officials announced the first case of a “probable” vaping related illness in the province on Oct. 16, after a Sept. 19 notice requiring doctors to report cases that meet the national definition of vaping disease.

A recent study conducted at the University of Waterloo states vaping among youth increased by 74 per cent in a single year. The number of youth who reported smoking tobacco grew 45 per cent year-over-year, which marks the first time youth smoking rates have climbed in Canada.

READ MORE: Talk to your kids about vaping, B.C.’s top doctor says

Stephanie Higginson, the president of BC School Trustees Association, said the provincial and federal governments need to make a coordinated effort to address the problem. She said youth need cessation programs to help them stop smoking and make educated choices.

“The problem is when the products come with things like gummy bear flavours, a lot of youth don’t realize the addictive nature of it until it is too late,” she said. “Because of the high concentration of nicotine it in, kids are addicted and when they go to stop, they don’t realize how addicted they are. That’s why we need some attention paid to cessation.”

Additionally, Higginson said vaping advertising must fall under the same legislation as tobacco.

“The fact of the matter is that vaping contains nicotine and tobbaco legislation really limits what you are can advertise and they should be doing the same thing with vaping advertising,” she said.

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