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Okanagan school officials worried about students vaping

Okanagan school officials alarmed about high number of vaping students

According to Vernon’s school district, the number of vaping-related suspensions grew to more than 200 last year, which is drastically up from only one suspension five years ago.

“Obviously we have rules in the school system that we have to follow through on, but we’re not going to punish our way out of this,” substance abuse prevention counsellor Doug Rogers said.

“We’re going to educate our way through this, and we’re going to change the lives of kids by teaching them about the dangers of vaping.”

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Rogers said most vaping-related discipline cases are in-school suspensions.

“We keep the kids here, in the office normally, and they do an assignment which we’ve created as a school district that we had vetted by various partners,” Rogers said.

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“The intention of the assignment is to raise the IQ of the kids about vaping, that it does have short and long-term harms,” he said.

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Rogers also voiced concern that more and more students are vaping weed.

“We are reacting to this epidemic and that’s what it is,” he said.

Because anxiety or depression is often cited as the reason students choose to vape, school district counsellors are trying to teach students about other ways to deal with it, Rogers said.

“Kids that are anxious, kids that are depressed, nicotine might help that, so we need to show them the reasons why it’s dangerous to use,” Rogers said.

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“We’ll talk about yoga and meditation. We’ll talk about mindfulness. We’ll talk about delay, so if one of their pals wants to go [vape], wait 10 minutes and then maybe the urge will move on,” Rogers said.

Rogers said that vaping products like Juul make it increasingly easy for students to hide their habit.

“It’s about the size of a memory stick. You can hide it in your sleeve, you can hide it in a lot of places, and there’s not a lot of vapour that comes out after,” he said.

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The legal age to buy vape products in B.C. is 19, but students said it’s still relatively easy to get them.

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“Some of the people at the stores don’t ID, so that’s usually how, and a lot of kids just go get someone older to go in and go get it for them,” Grade 12 student Shelbie Mackiewich said.

Rogers said he’s hoping legislation will be introduced soon that will ban flavoured vape products.

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He believes it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about vaping and said it’s important how they broach the subject.

To help families learn more about vaping, officials are holding an information session at Vernon Secondary School on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.