Vaping and the use of flavoured nicotine is on the rise in Edmonton schools and now, police are partnering with local health officials to combat the growing issue.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in vaping among teens in junior high and high school, even pre-teens in elementary school are trying out their older siblings’ vapes,” said Const. Joshua Maeda, who is the EPS school resource officer at M.E. LaZerte High School.
“It’s very disruptive to the school environment. I’ve seen numerous students get caught and suspended for vaping in school.”
This year, Maeda said he’s seized nearly 50 vaping devices and vape juice worth more than $1,500.
Over the summer, the EPS plans to visit a number of local vape retailers to speak to owners about the problem and ensure they’re not breaking the law. Later this fall, University of Alberta nursing students will work with Edmonton schools to educate teens on the health risks of vaping.
“The main reason teens start to vape is because of the flavoured nicotine, which not only tastes good, but gives them a head rush that feels good,” said Nancy Barnes, a registered nurse and faculty lecturer with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing.
“But the effects of nicotine and vaping are toxic to a developing brain and body, so we have to take action before the nicotine addiction kicks in.”
A recent study by the British Medical Journal suggests there’s been a 74 per cent increase in vaping among Canadian students age 16 to 19 between 2017 and 2018. According to Health Canada, 23 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 have tried an electronic cigarette.
Watch below: New study shows number of teens vaping has increased
A spokeswoman for Health Canada said in a statement late last week that the department has taken a number of actions in response to the mounting evidence that youth vaping is on the rise.
Maryse Durette said Health Canada is ramping up efforts to ensure industry compliance with current federal regulations on the sale and promotion of vaping products.
The agency is sending letters to vaping retailers across the country to remind them of their obligations to prevent youth access, and health officials are expected to inspect thousands of convenience and specialty stores by the end of the year, said Durette.
“Kids are vulnerable because of peer pressure and lack of knowledge,” Maeda said. “But if we get the right information out to the community, we can keep these kids on the right path and avoid future addictions.”
Existing regulations prohibit youth-targeted advertising of vaping products, and Health Canada is reviewing feedback on proposed new measures to ban these ads in public places, stores and media where young people are likely to encounter them, Durette said.
The department is also examining the role of flavours, nicotine concentration and product design in appealing to youth and non-smokers.
With files from The Canadian Press.