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‘Everyone is doing it, it’s cool’: B.C. students talk about the highs and lows of vaping

WATCH: (Sept. 4) As hundreds of thousands of B.C. students return to school, administrators are struggling to deal with the explosion of vaping. Linda Aylesworth reports.

This is Part 1 in a three-part series on the rise of vaping among students, the health risks and the call to regulate the industry in B.C.

You have to be 19 years old to buy vape products, and it’s not allowed on school property — yet it’s everywhere.

Students in New Westminster told Global News they vape in school washrooms to hide from teachers and in school parking lots.

For confidentiality reasons, Global News agreed to only identify the students by their first names.

READ MORE: B.C. health minister promises crackdown on youth vaping after calls for Canada to act

Aidan, 16, said “everyone is doing it.” He started vaping in Grade 8.

“You’re trying to get popular, the older kids are vaping and you say, ‘maybe I’ll try,'” he said. “I didn’t really know the thing I was hitting had nicotine in it. I think after a month I started craving it.”

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The addiction seems real for Aidan. During school hours, he says he vapes every hour-and-a-half.

It was easy for Ilija, 14, to get his hands on one, he said.

“There’s a store in downtown (Vancouver) and they sell to minors,” he said. “Just walk in there with 40 bucks and you can buy one.”

WATCH (Sept. 13, 2019): New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States

New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States
New Brunswick department of health monitoring vaping after deaths in the United States

And it’s just as easy to get addicted.

“You can control how much nicotine you consume,” Ilija said.

James, 16, says he started vaping in Grade 8.

“The tricks were pretty cool, you know, blowing ghosts and the O’s,” he said. “But back in the day, they were the big boxed ones, not like these little high nicotine devices that everyone has now.”

‘My lungs were just too messed up’ 

Ilija said he quit after he noticed the negative impacts.

“My stamina would decrease, I do water sports. I couldn’t swim over a kilometre without getting tired a lot.”

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And it didn’t take long for 16-year-old Nathan to notice the same.

“I tried to join track at the beginning of Grade 10 and I just couldn’t do it, because my lungs were just too messed up from vaping”

All those and more students told Global News their addiction to nicotine started with vaping. Not one of them picked up a cigarette before a vape, they said.

Ilija promised his parents he would quit and he intends to keep his word, but he’s watched friends try to kick the habit.

“First, it was cool, then (they) realized they can’t stop,” he said.

And at one point they have all tried to quit, whether it was for a few days, over spring break or over summer break.

WATCH (Sept. 13, 2019): Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance wants to raise vaping min age

Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance wants to raise vaping min age
Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance wants to raise vaping min age

But Nathan said it’s much harder when friends are around and the option is in plain sight. He has a message for other students looking to “fit in.”

“Just don’t do it,” he warns. “It seems like it would be easy to stop, but when you stop, you feel you need it and you don’t realize how strong the addiction is.

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“I think if I really put my mind to it, I could probably stop.”

The Surrey School District has said it’s concerned about the rise in kids’ vaping.

Spokesperson Doug Strachan says staff will be holding a focus group with students.

READ MORE: New York moves to ban flavoured e-cigarettes amid vaping concerns

“(We want to) find out what they think about vaping and where they get their ideas, and what really convinces them or may convince them not to pursue vaping or taking it up,” Strachan said.

The Vancouver School Board has also acknowledged the growing issue within schools.

Both districts have said awareness and prevention are key.