Vaping, and concern about vaping, is on the rise at School District 69. — Lindsay Fox/Pixabay File Photo

Concern over vaping grows in Parksville Qualicum Beach schools

Health officer says parents have ample reason to be concerned

Student use of e-cigarettes and vape products like JUUL is increasing across North America, and in School District 69 (Qualicum).

“Vaping is on the rise,” said Gillian Wilson, assistant superintendent at SD69.

Marketed as an alternative to tobacco products like cigarettes, or a way to wean yourself off of tobacco products, vaping has people inhaling and exhaling flavoured vapour made by an electronic cigarette heating up liquid.

The flavouring ranges from tobacco to mint to fruit, candy and dessert flavours, and often also contains nicotine.

The amount of nicotine can range quite a bit.

But some vaping liquids contain as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes, said Island Health medical health officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns.

And though marketed as a less-dangerous alternative to tobacco products where one inhales smoke, research is beginning to show that vape products are getting a whole new generation of youth hooked on nicotine.

University of Waterloo professor David Hammond has said publicly that his latest data shows a sharp increase in vaping among Canadian teens, similar to the increase in the United States.

According to the National Center for Health Research, the percentage of U.S. teenagers who have tried e-cigarettes went from five per cent in 2011 to 19 per cent in 2015. One in five middle schoolers who said they had tried e-cigarettes also said they have never smoke conventional cigarettes.

Government of Canada stats show that 23 per cent of students in grades 7-12 have tried an electronic cigarette. That’s despite laws prohibiting selling or giving vaping products to anyone under 18.

At SD69, some parents feel vaping is an acceptable and less harmful alternative to smoking, said Wilson. Other parents are very concerned about youth use of e-cigarettes and are working with Island Health to deliver information to parents and students.

Enns said those parents have ample reason to be concerned.

She said that, despite eliminating the smoke, vaping can still get people hooked on nicotine. It can also introduce harmful substances including heavy metals into the body, and vaping makes people, including youth, more likely to try smoking.

According to the Canadian government, vaping can introduce formaldehyde and acrolein which can cause cancer, metals and other contaminants into the lungs.

“I think it’s important to understand that the e-cigs or vaping products are really owned by the big tobacco companies and so I think we should just, by that fact alone, be cautious about underestimating the potential negative health impact from vaping,” said Enns.

“There’s been a lot of push or effort to try to minimize the risk, or perceived risk, and to try to market e-cigs as a harm-reduction or as a less harmful strategy to tobacco smoking through cigarettes or other forms of taking tobacco.”

However, Enns said there’s also been a clear effort to market vaping products to youth.

She said having candy flavours is an obvious appeal to kids.

“The flavouring and the packaging of those flavours is marketed to look like candy. The outside of the packages make it look like a treat.”

While the liquids used in vaping often show an amount of nicotine, or none, contained in the liquid, research has shown the amount of nicotine can vary wildly. Even samples from some manufacturers showing no nicotine content had significant amounts: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29280749

While vaping and e-cigarettes is still relatively new, there is a long way to go both in terms of research and in terms of regulation, said Enns.

However, she said she’s dedicated to keeping youth from becoming addicted to nicotine.

“Nicotine is a very difficult addiction to break. And it is far easier not to start than to try to stop,” she said.

“I was a family physician before I became a public health specialist, and I had a patient who ended up dying of lung disease because of her lifetime of tobacco smoking.

“I will never forget… she’s on oxygen, looking at me and saying, ‘If you do anything, please tell young people don’t start. Just don’t start because it is impossible to stop.’ It was impossible for her to stop,” said Enns.

However, she said others can stop, and said Island Health and other organizations can help people break their addiction.

At SD69, teachers and administrators are putting in measures to monitor e-cigarette use among students, but said vaping is far more concealable than smoking.

Ultimately, Enns said “It’s all about education.”

“It’s not helpful just to tell a kid ‘You can’t do that.’ It’s about supporting their decision-making, and it’s informed decision-making about what are they choosing to put into their bodies.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Vaping, and concern about vaping, is on the rise at School District 69. — Lindsay Fox/Pixabay File Photo

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bucket list: Errington Hall set to come alive with special drumming

Pair of programs scheduled to take place starting October

WATCH: Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock pedals into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Volunteer LeMoine doesn’t get locks shaved but still finds a way to raise funds

Oceanside Folk/Roots Club to hold first show Oct. 2 in Qualicum Beach

Community hall to serve as venue for performances

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Police seek ‘high-risk sex offender’ last seen in Victoria

Scott Jones is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for being ‘unlawfully at large’

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read