Trustees in the Fraser Cascade School District are making a stand against youth vaping in the community.
During school board Tuesday night (Oct. 15), the trustees voted unanimously to send a letter to the Minister of Health asking the province to ban flavoured vaping products, bring in tighter retail controls, create tougher penalties for non-compliance and develop educational tools to stop students from vaping in the first place.
The decision to send the letter was spurred by a request from Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, who asked the board to write to the ministry in support of his private member’s bill, which tackles some of these issues around vaping.
“While I understand the B.C. government has recently indicated its desire to await further action from Health Canada, it’s impractical to assume any immediate follow-up from Ottawa until the current federal election is over, a federal government has been sworn in and federal cabinet priorities have been established,” Stone’s letter reads.
“All of the above will take many months, which would mean losing almost the entire school year. We simply cannot allow that to happen.”
The school board, reading out sections of Stone’s letter during the meeting, agreed.
“Stone’s last paragraph to us says, just to finish off: ‘We need to work together to keep our kids safe,’” trustee John Koopman said. “’As one parent said … our kids deserve better from us. I couldn’t agree more.’
“I like the fact we’re sending this letter, because we couldn’t agree more either.”
Trustee Marilyn Warren said the school board should send a letter, not only for the students in the district, but also for the many people who take up vaping as teens and suffer the consequences later in life.
“It’s not good for anybody, but we’re responsible for the kids,” she said. “But I think that’s something we should worry about too, because they’ll carry on.”
“People are dying from a lung disease that they don’t even know how to do anything about,” she continued.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the States estimates the number of vaping-related deaths at 26, while pulmonary illnesses likely caused by vaping has reached more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada.
Health Canada has been urging people who vape to watch for symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting and chest pain, and to seek medical attention if they have concerns about their health. It has also said that health-care professionals should ask patients about their use of e-cigarette products if they have respiratory symptoms.
The school board was unanimous in its support for sending a letter to the province, with trustee Wendy Coleman-Lawley requesting the board also make a note that the province should support education initiatives to prevent people from ever starting vaping.
“It’s great to scream at big tobacco, however … I’m not seeing a call to action by the government to educate our youth,” she said. “If you are going to say don’t do this, kids are going to do it regardless, but you need to provide them with some education on the ground.”
Currently, Agassiz Elementary Secondary School is in the process of applying for a grant to bring Fraser Health into the school to talk about the dangers of vaping to its students.
“I think this is just like the tobacco industry 30 years ago when they had smoking cessation programs that came into our schools,” Coleman-Lawley said. “The government needs to be providing that information up front so kids can make an informed choice, rather than just going with the crowd.”