Charlottetown junior high school cracking down on student vaping

A Charlottetown junior high school is taking new measures to crack down on the "alarming" number of students at school smoking e-cigarettes — or vaping, as it's commonly known.

Stonepark Intermediate students now face immediate suspension for having vaping products at school

In a letter to parents, the principal of Stonepark Intermediate says 'incidence of vaping inside the building has gone up exponentially.' (CBC )

A Charlottetown junior high school is taking new measures to crack down on the "alarming" number of students at school smoking e-cigarettes — or vaping, as it's commonly known.

In a letter sent home to parents, the principal at Stonepark Intermediate School warned that starting this week, any student caught vaping, or in possession of vaping or tobacco products will face an immediate suspension between two and five days. 

"It's a health risk really," said principal Norman Beck. "You're talking about exposure to second-hand smoke that students are being subjected to ... we want to keep all our students safe."

Students caught were typically issued a lunch-time detention, Beck said, which he said hasn't worked well as a deterrent. 

'Dramatic increase'

Beck said that over the years, there have only been a handful of times students have been caught smoking. But just last week there were eight incidents of vaping at the school.

"There's been a dramatic increase in the amount of vaping we're seeing here at the school," he said.

"It's grown exponentially over the last little while.  And we've seen a real increase in the amount of vaping being done — on school buses, in the school, around school grounds."

Beck said they were taking the vaping seriously in order to protect those who were using the vaping or tobacco products as well as the rest of the students at the school. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The move was made to drive home the point that vaping is very similar to smoking tobacco products, something Beck said seems to be misunderstood by some students.

"There is a sense of acceptance for vaping among many of our students, a lack of understanding about the known negative effects of vaping, and a nonchalance among students who vape that it is acceptable to do so on school grounds."

Principal Norman Beck said he has seen a dramatic increase in vaping at the school. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Earlier this spring, Health Canada officials visited some Island high schools, to educate students about the health consequences of vaping. 

Among other things, the health agency's presentation highlighted the nicotine inhaled through vaping can cause lung damage, alter teens' brain development, and lead to addiction. 

Health Canada has identified the rising use of e-cigarettes as a concerning trend among young Canadians, which appears to be playing out at P.E.I. schools like Stonepark. 

Beck says it's important to ensure a smoke- and vape-free school for all of the students' health and safety. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"We need to address this and find ways to minimize these risks," Beck said in his letter to parents. "In addition, we all must realize that possession of vapes by teenagers is against the law, and if, for no other reason than that, they have no place in schools."

The Public Schools Branch's Tobacco and Smoke-Free Environments policy bans the use of tobacco products and "look alike" products like e-cigarettes on school grounds. 

However, enforcement of the policy is left up to individual schools. 

Not allowed on all school properties

In a written statement to the CBC, the Public Schools Branch said that vaping has always been a concern for principals and other schools have also said that vaping is becoming more of a problem.

It said schools work with students to explain the health concerns and promote accountability.

If the harmful or prohibited behaviour, such as vaping, continues then principals have the authority to suspend or place conditions on students for up to five days.

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