Kids in Vancouver school district addicted to nicotine thanks to vaping, says VSB official

A selection of vape pens pictured in this November 12, 2013 file photo. File/Getty Images

A new bill proposed in B.C. could see flavoured vape products being banned to keep kids away from the addictive habit.

But for young people who do already vape, it might be a little too late for that, according to Vancouver School Board substance use health promotion manager Art Steinmann.

“To be honest, I really feel like the cat is kind of out of the bag. That would help down the road, but right now, a lot of young people are aware of vaping.”

In fact, Steinmann said staff has come across students within the school board who realize that they’ve become addicted to nicotine because of vaping.

READ MORE: B.C. Liberals pushing for ban of flavoured vape products

“It’s unfortunate to see when a young person starts on juice with no nicotine or perhaps very low nicotine, but then gradually over time progress into using nicotine and then almost unexpectedly realize that in fact, they’ve developed quite a dependence on nicotine,” Steinmann said.

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Steinmann said the primary focus needs to be around education and awareness campaigns and news that the bill would provide more resources to school districts for those programs was welcome, he said.

Kamloops MLA Todd Stone proposed the bill in B.C.’s legislature Thursday morning.

READ MORE: Health advocates pushing for e-cigarette crackdown amid surge in teen vaping

“[It] would ban flavoured juice products which [are] highly attractive to kids — with kid-friendly flavouring like bubblegum and cotton candy, and so forth,” Stone said.

Stone said it’s mostly large tobacco companies that profit off sales of vape products. But the owner of a Vancouver-based vape shop disagrees.

Stacey White is the co-owner of Thunderbird Vapes. She said the bill will hurt her small business if it goes through, thanks to the fact that almost all the juice products sold at her store are “flavoured,” even the ones that have a slight glycerin flavour rather than a sweet candy taste.

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“All of the liquids that we sell, except for, I’m guessing, less than two per cent, would be banned,” White said.

READ MORE: Parents, vaping near children is just as dangerous as smoking: study

She said a ban on flavoured products will also mean many adults will find it harder to quit smoking cigarettes.

“People get really excited when they find out they actually enjoy this more than they did their cigarettes. That they can leave their cigarettes behind and be happy about it and not feel like they’re depriving themselves.”

Stone said he understands that small business owners might have concerns about that policy or others, but his priority, he said, is public health, and especially that of kids.

“I make no apologies for suggesting something which I think accomplishes something very important, and that’s to reduce vaping with respect to the youth of this province.”

READ MORE: Health Canada moving to restrict vape advertisements to youth

Stone said vaping is quickly becoming an epidemic among B.C.’s youth — citing studies that say a third of students in grades 10 through 12 vape on at least a weekly basis.

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His bill, if passed, would introduce three measures: to ban the sale of flavoured vape products, to limit the supply of e-cigarette products with stricter retail controls, and to introduce tougher penalties on stores that don’t follow the rules.

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