Cracking down on students caught vaping on school property with suspensions and proposed fines is just one way Red Deer school districts are dealing with a growing problem.
Since e-cigarettes are high in addictive nicotine, Red Deer Public Schools has been making available information about cessation methods and about the chemicals being inhaled to students caught vaping in the classroom or school grounds.
At Hunting Hills High School, presentations outlining concerns about vaping have been done for small classroom groups, at parent/teacher meetings, and one-on one with affected students, said principal Darwin Roscoe.
Teachers in the Red Deer public and Catholic divisions have also attended workshops and seminars on vaping presented by Gail Foreman, tobacco reduction specialist for Alberta Health Services’ central zone health promotion.
Foreman’s aim is to arm school staff with enough factual information so that they can “start conversations” with students to correct some of the misinformation that youths are learning from the internet.
One myth is that taking in vapour from e-cigarettes is the same as inhaling water vapour. Foreman said a more fitting comparison is to something like an aerosol cooking spray, since oily chemicals are present in the “fog” that’s being sucked into lungs.
“We don’t inhale oil for a reason,” she added, as it damages our bronchial airways.
Health Canada has not yet approved e-cigarettes even as a smoking-cessation device, since their long-term effects are unknown, said Foreman.
What is known is there are many chemicals and particulates in e-cigarettes — most stemming from the youth-appealing flavours that are added to the vapour, such as peppermint or tutti-fruiti.
Foreman noted these fine particulates are considered pollution when found in the air. They are cancer causing with long-term exposure.
There’s also a concern e-cigarettes are creating a craving for nicotine that’s leading to an upswing in youth smoking, which had been on a steep decline before vaping became a craze.
Foreman said a spike in e-cigarette usage was shown by an Ontario study to correlate with an increase in cigarette smoking among young people.
She feels it’s more impactful for students to hear these and other facts “as needed” from people they know and respect, such as teachers, than from special classroom presentations.
As to the new disciplinary measures all Red Deer high schools are proposing — fining students vaping on school grounds under a city no-smoking-in-public-spaces bylaw — Foreman said the jury’s out on what effect it will have.
“But let’s face it, at this point, we should throw everything at it that we can,” she added.
The new fines are to take effect June 1. But as of Wednesday, the public school district was still waiting to get information from the city about who can enforce the bylaw.
Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer Public Schools, said the public feedback has virtually all been positive so far.