KELOWNA — A British Columbia school board says it has “serious concerns” about the risk of vaping and is asking all levels of government to take action.
In an example of how school districts are grappling with the new products amid shifting regulatory frameworks, the Central Okanagan School District outlined in a letter to parents on Friday how it is working to curb the use of e-cigarettes by students.
Since May, the school district says it has met with local municipal governments to encourage the development of bylaws to prevent advertising and targeting sales to minors.
It also says it supports proposed new provincial regulations, and the school board voted to write to local federal candidates asking how, if elected, they would address the “serious danger” posed by the electronic devices.
The board specifically asked how candidates would address the marketing of vaping products to children.
Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but Health Canada has warned people who vape to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness.
“The Central Okanagan School District continues to have serious concerns about the impacts of vaping on human health,” the letter from Superintendent Kevin Kaardal says to parents.
School staff are focusing education on middle school students and will continue to enforce a “no-vaping zone” on school property, it says.
School principals have been instructed to confiscate any vapour products they see on campus.
“If staff see vaping products on school property, they may confiscate them and turn them over to the RCMP,” the letter says.
In B.C., the rules around the sale of vapour products are the same as cigarettes and it is against the law to sell to someone under the age of 19.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said this month that a plan will be released in “the coming weeks” to deal with regulatory change and suggested licences would be required for vendors to sell the products.
The Central Okanagan School District isn’t alone in trying to address teen vaping.
The Sooke school district said vaping is becoming an “epidemic” among teens, ahead of an information session it held in May.
In August, the Vancouver school district issued information handouts to teachers and parents.
“Teachers are in a unique position to provide unbiased information about the adverse health effects of vaping to students and their families,” the package for teachers says.
The parents’ handout says the long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown.
“As caregivers, you can connect and discuss issues around vaping products with your child,” it says.
Two teenagers filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 30 against popular vape brand Juul alleging they suffered “adverse health conditions” after using the company’s e-cigarettes beginning in 2018.
Juul has not yet filed a response with the court.