The first deaths attributed to vaping are causing Alberta Health to double-down on efforts to make young people aware of the potential hazards.
In November, a pilot project will be starting in some Grade 7 to 9 classes in Alberta schools, including Eastview Middle School.
“Obviously, we have been very concerned about youth vaping, and we want to highlight the potential dangers,” said Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.
Experience has shown teens do not take lectures about what’s bad for them to heart, so these pilot programs will focus on building students’ social competence skills, said Hinshaw.
A “virtual learning environment” will be created, allowing students to use smartphones and tablets to play games and puzzles that expand their problem-solving, decision-making and critical-thinking skills.
Hinshaw said the aim is also to hone the students’ media literacy, self-image and coping ability.
The pilot programs will run over five weeks.
Hinshaw said teachers will be sharing the latest information about e-cigarettes. An evaluation will be done at the end, and input from students and teachers will be used to help shape the final program.
While much isn’t yet known about vaping’s long-term effects, Hinshaw said some things are now clear: Vaping draws toxic materials into the lungs, and this has caused at least six Americans to rapidly succumb to respiratory distress.
No specific vaping or e-cigarette products have been linked to these deaths, added Hinshaw. Regardless, she said the practice led to serious lung illnesses, “so if you are not using tobacco products, it’s safest not to start.”
Alberta Health has already done work in schools, but the message is not getting through to some students, she admitted.
Meanwhile, Red Deer public school officials are meeting with the City of Red Deer Tuesday to discuss whether city bylaws officers can fine students who are caught vaping on school grounds.