British Columbia

Solution to vaping should be part of larger mental-health strategy: B.C. school trustees

School trustees in B.C. are urging federal and provincial governments to make funding available for vape education and cessation for students.

Association asking for provincial, federal aid to boost education, aid cessation

More school trustees are reporting students vaping and spending more time dealing with the problem, according to the trustees' association. (CBC )

British Columbia's school trustees are asking for help to stop students from vaping.

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, said in an interview Tuesday that her members report more students are vaping and school staff are spending more time policing the problem.

Members approved a motion at the association's provincial council meeting urging federal and provincial governments to make funding available for vape education and cessation for students, she said.

"Our schools are spending more time addressing, monitoring the oversight of this. So, it is a problem,'' she said.

"We have students using the vaping products, in some extreme circumstances, actually in the classroom, because [vaping] presents itself differently than smoking.''

'We know that kids who have access to mental-health supports are less likely to vape,' said Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association. (B.C. School Trustees Association)

Higginson, who represents members on 60 provincial school boards, said trustees also want vaping product advertisements, promotions and sponsorships to align with current tobacco legislation.

Any solution should be part of a larger mental-health support strategy, she said.

"We know that kids who have access to mental-health supports are less likely to vape,'' Higginson said.

The motion will be presented to B.C.'s ministries of health and education, and to provincial health authorities.

We have students using the vaping products, in some extreme circumstances, actually in the classroom ...- Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association

Higginson said the Canadian School Board Association will also be advocating for help from the federal government around student vaping.

"What we need is a more co-ordinated and communicated effort to address this.''

The new physical education program includes a health component that would give schools an opportunity to educate about the dangers of vaping, if they're provided with the proper resources from government, she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement Tuesday that B.C. is planning regulatory action that would be the first of its kind in Canada. He said it involves education, empowering young people, working with its partners and pressuring the federal government to act.

"We know from past experience that campaigns targeted at youth that have been designed and led by peers to create social change have been successful," Dix said. 

"The goal is to make vaping socially unacceptable much like smoking cigarettes is now socially unacceptable by today's youth.''

The president of the Canadian Medical Association has called youth vaping a public health crisis. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

He said the plan would be announced shortly.

Health Canada said in a statement earlier this month that it was deeply concerned by the increase in vaping reported among the country's youth.

It said it has taken numerous steps to address the rise of vaping and, in particular, the risk that it poses to youth. Those steps include consulting on additional regulatory measures targeting promotion to youth, packaging and flavours, as well as compliance and enforcement and public awareness and youth education campaigns.

The Ontario government recently announced the province would ban the promotion of vaping products in convenience stores and gas stations starting Jan. 1.

The president of the Canadian Medical Association has called youth vaping a public health crisis.

Higginson said the unknown long-term health implications of breathing in flavoured vaping ingredients are a concern. She adds that schools are also seeing an increasing trend in the use of e-cigarettes with nicotine.

"When it comes to smoking cessation, there are lots of programs on that, but we're having a hard time playing catch-up in terms of vaping cessation," she said. "That's what we're asking for, more resources that are specifically developed for youth on vape health implications and vape cessation.''

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