British Columbia

B.C. high school buys back vapes in exchange for cafeteria credits

With teen vaping continuing to be a serious concern in school districts across the province, the staff at Revelstoke Secondary School is trying a new approach to get teens to quit — a buy-back program.

45 to 50 students have traded in their vape devices, says Revelstoke Secondary School principal

Anecdotally, the school believes that the number of students vaping during school hours has gone down with the help of the buy-back program. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

With teen vaping continuing to be a serious concern in school districts across the province, the staff at Revelstoke Secondary School is trying a new approach to get teens to quit — a buy-back program.

"In essence, we put it out there. We said we will buy your vapes not for the going price, not even for half price, but we'll buy your vapes and give you credit at the school cafeteria," said Principal Greg Kenyon.

When students turn their vape devices in, he assesses their condition to determine how many cafeteria credits they will get.

Kenyon usually offers students cafeteria credit worth about 30 per cent of the retail price of their vaping paraphernalia. The highest amount he has given so far is $30 and the lowest $2. 

"I give them a price that is nowhere near what they would get if they sold it to another student, but having said that, the students understand that they don't want other people to take this up. The health effects of vaping have become very, very clear to the youth here," said the principal of the southeastern B.C. school. 

'We just keep working that relationship with these students knowing that they're trying to kick an addiction,' said Greg Kenyon, the principal of Revelstoke Secondary School. (Submitted by Mike Hooker)

Since June, six people in B.C. have reported illnesses that are potentially related to vaping. Meanwhile, Health Canada warns that vaping can increase exposure to harmful chemicals and that the long-term consequences of vaping are still unknown. 

Kenyon said he pitched the idea to the school board out of "desperation" after seeing a sharp increase in the number of students vaping at the school over the past five years, even though it's not allowed on school property, he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

The superintendent was so supportive of the idea, he offered to give the school money to pay for it, and more recently a local company, Downie Timber, gave $500 to help support the school's initiative.

"I think it's a fabulous idea," said superintendent Mike Hooker.

Anecdotal success

Kenyon estimates between 45 and 50 vape devices have been turned in so far. 

However, it doesn't mean all of those students have quit vaping. 

"It's one of those things ... that just assists students and keeps them understanding that we're here to support them in vaping or smoking cessation," he said.

"Has it stopped vaping? No. Is it less from all the anecdotal evidence I'm getting from the students? Yes."

The superintendent echoed this, saying far fewer students are being seen leaving school grounds to vape at lunch.

"Anecdotally for sure, it has gone down in terms of visibility," said Hooker.

School staff also remind students that the school has free gum, as well as public health nurses and doctors that come in once a week, and that there are nicotine patches available at local pharmacies, said Kenyon.

"We just keep working that relationship with these students knowing that they're trying to kick an addiction," he said.

"You can't punish it away. You have to support these students.

With files from Bob Keating and Daybreak South

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