Vaping has seduced Red Deer teens, forcing schools to look at ways to educate students on the dangers of the newest wave of nicotine products.
“Smoking, in the past, has been severely reduced in our youth, and we wouldn’t see them trying to do it in schools,” said Dan Lower, principal at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
“Now, we’re catching kids vaping right within the walls of the schools, sometimes in classes.”
New stealth vaping products don’t emit the big plume of vapour associated with earlier devices, so the practice can be hidden and undetectable.
Les Hagen, executive director with Action on Smoking and Health, said stealth vaping delivers higher doses of nicotine that are easily absorbed and very additive.
“They’re very easy to conceal because they look like small USB sticks. They are physically appealing because of their small size, they’re colourful, and they are marketed in an attractive manner to young people in retail stores, on social media, broadcast and print,” Hagen said.
He said that’s why health advocates want the same advertising restrictions on vaping that exist for tobacco, such as covering up store displays and prohibiting advertising in stores.
“We’re very concerned about the explosive rise in youth vaping in Alberta and across Canada. We’re calling on the federal and provincial governments to intervene accordingly.
“(Nicotine) is one of the most addictive substances on the planet and we should be every bit as aggressive as a society in protecting kids from nicotine as we are with tobacco. It’s a small step to go from a nicotine addiction to smoking cigarettes.”
He said between 2015 and 2017, vaping among Alberta high school students almost tripled, from eight to 22 per cent. That was two years ago. A new study is coming out in the next few months.
“We fear the worst at this point,” Hagen said.
Lower said that while he was confiscating vaping products from a student recently, the pupil told him the strength of the nicotine was the appeal.
“He said he could smoke three or four cigarettes and get a bit of a rush. With these, you just have to have one inhale and you get a massive body rush.”
Lower said vaping is happening in middle schools, junior high and high schools, according to colleagues.
“The rise in vaping both outside our schools, and within school, has increased dramatically over the last couple of years, so we have major concerns.”
Red Deer Public Schools is working on lessons starting in Grade 9 to teach students about the health risks associated with vaping.
“We want to at least make our kids aware of the dangers. I don’t believe they know what they’re getting themselves into,” Lower said.
Darwin Roscoe, principal at Hunting Hills High School, said educational presentations to students have also been available and a session for parents has been arranged.
“As stated in our drug and alcohol policy, we have zero tolerance regarding vaping at our schools,” Roscoe said.