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Vaping: understanding the risks and health options

| Categories: Schools & Students, School & Student News

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Why do students vape? What are the health impacts? Is it illegal to vape? What type of prevention strategies should we use with students who are addicted to vaping? These were some of the questions asked by VSB teachers during a professional development session focused on vaping.

Forty teachers from across the District came together recently to learn and share current vaping challenges and success stories experienced in schools. Hosted by the District'sSupporting And Connecting Youth (SACY) program, teachers heard presentations from the Vancouver Coastal Health's Tobacco Reduction Program, Public Health Nurses and the McCreary Centre Society. The group discussed promising options for managing vaping addiction and explored community resources available to teachers, students and parents.

"Vaping is a comparatively new activity and its use is definitely becoming increasingly common," says Art Steinman, SACY Manager. "At these early stages as we learn about this new trend, it's important to share our experiences amongst teachers and health officials to understand how it's impacting young people and how we can support a healthy student population."

The group learned that one in five youth will have tried vaping products between grades seven to 12, according to the 2018 McCreary BC Adolescent Health Survey. Some youth report that they vape because of social pressure or they consider vaping to be less harmful than smoking. Recent research found that vaping products contain toxic and addictive ingredients that could harm the body. In fact, some vape products contain the same amount of nicotine per cartridge as in a pack of cigarettes.

B.C. law prohibits the sale of vaping products to anyone under the age of 19. In addition, under the BC Tobacco and Vaping Products Act consumption and distribution of tobacco or vaping products is illegal on school property.

Brains continue to develop until the age of 25 and as a result, nicotine use before this period can cause problems with concentration, learning and impulse control, according to the BC Lung Association. In addition, studies show once nicotine use begins there is a risk to becoming addicted and physically dependent on the substance. The younger a person is the greater the risk.

So how do you talk to youth about vaping? Teachers learned you start by listening. "Take the time to connect with them and explore their perspectives," says Steinman. "Offer relationship and share current, accurate information to support them with healthy decision making."

Teachers who attended the event said "this gave me a good gage of where we are at" and "this was a reminder to be non-judgemental when discussing these matters with students."

SACY is a program dedicated to educating and supporting students, parents and teachers about substance use, health promotion and early intervention. It is based on the belief that young people who feel connected to their schools, have supportive family and have adult allies and mentors are stronger, healthier and better able to realize their potential. SACY staff and its partners are committed to listening to students' experiences and supporting them in the prevention, delay and reduction of problematic substance use. More information about SACY can be found here.

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