Alberta is currently the only province in Canada without provincial regulations on e-cigarettes and vaping.
But even with a lack of provincial guidance, Lethbridge school divisions have made it a priority to outline their own strict rules when it comes to using the products on campus.
“We do a vaping policy under our larger smoking and drugs and alcohol act,” said Chris Smeaton, superintendent of the Holyspirit Catholic School Division, on Tuesday.
“It’s a smoke-free environment and that applies to vaping, electronic cigarettes and those types of things.”
Several school boards in the city and surrounding area — including the Lethbridge, Westwind and Livingstone Range school divisions — follow this policy.
However, Smeaton said prohibiting vaping is nothing new. He explained that rules banning the use of tobacco or smoking-related products have been in place since 2015, along with strict penalties for those found to be smoking or vaping on school property.
“It all depends on the age of the student, the circumstance and the context of it, but the penalty can be as significant as a three- to a five-day suspension,” he said.
Smeaton said the school boards also believe it’s important to remind students of the dangers associated with e-cigarettes, and one way they do that is by talking with them about vaping restrictions in a group setting.
“We’re working with our schools to continue to combat vaping because, in the city especially, it’s very problematic,” Smeaton said.
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The Livingstone Range School Division is also home to a restrictive policy on smoking that states: “The division believes that the use of tobacco and smoke by students, employees and other persons is not conducive to the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle or a healthy environment.”
The policy goes on to say the school division is looking to partner with Alberta Health Services on a vaping pilot project that will include teacher training, education and peer mentorship surrounding the impacts of vaping on health.
However, school boards aren’t the only people worried about the possible health complications this trend can have on student populations.
Juliet Guichon, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, said stricter rules could be implemented across the province to better protect young populations.
“A lot of young people are obtaining the e-cigarettes through persons over the age of 18 and then they resell or give them to people under the age of 18,” Guichon said.
“So choosing an age of 21, as many states in the United States have done, might help.”
A review of Alberta’s current Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act is set to be conducted in November.
Until then, Lethbridge school boards will continue advocating for smoke-free zones on campuses in the city.
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