Vaping: Is it safe? Is it a gateway to other substance youth? How do I talk to my teen about it? These are common questions asked by parents and loved ones of youth. The Kitsilano Secondary School Parent Advisory Council decided to do something to help.
They invited concerned parents of Kitsilano and neighbouring schools to gather at the auditorium on April 10, 2019, for a timely presentation hosted by the regarded initiative Supporting and Connecting Youth (SACY) called Youth and Vaping: What do we need to know?
The Vancouver School District's Art Steinmann, SACY Manager, and Kristina Spring, STEP coordinator, were accompanied by Dr. Milan Khara, Medical Lead of the Tobacco Cessation Clinic at VGH, to speak about youth vaping.
Vaping has become a noticeable issue in the secondary school youth populations across Canada and Vancouver is not exempt. The evening session provided information to parents about of vaping, why it's popularity has exploded in the last five years, the complexities of the vaping health debate and what they can do as parents to support their children through the exposure of vaping.
Not a pin drop could be heard through the entire event. Parents were able to share their concerns about the issue before the formal presentation. Following the session, a lively questions and answer period took place. There was no a shortage of questions from parents. Many of their questions highlighted their significant concerns about vaping: What does youth vaping mean for the health of our children long-term? What is the magnitude of the vaping problem in youth? Does vaping lead to other substance use? What insights can we bring home to our children? How can parents can communicate with their kids about the health concerns of vaping?
Some of those questions could be answered, and some questions could not because the evidence about the impacts of vaping continue to emerge. One thing remains concrete: vaping creates early addiction in youth.
Dr. Khara poignantly suggests, "Parents should assume that their child is either vaping, has tried a vape product or is surrounded by vaping when they are out of the home." He further says that if your child tells you that they are vaping nicotine free e-liquid and they are vaping daily, then they are likely vaping nicotine containing e-liquid. Some of the nicotine-free claiming products do contain trace amounts of nicotine. This misguided labelling means people perceive vaping as not harmful and reduces their chance of nicotine addiction.
The District's SACY team explains the importance of building positive relationships and connection have on the health outcomes for young people, especially when it comes to substance use. Vaping incidence is linked to family role modeling and social influence. Vaping can be a way for children to engage, connect and seek social approval from their peers. The SACY team promotes the principles of Prevent, Reduce and Delay in relation to substance use. Ultimately the best suggestion to overcome the challenge of youth vaping is to treat young people with respect and give them the tools to make informed choices.
. "It is clear that parents are concerned about vaping among youth, and are eager to learn novels ways to intervene that elicit positive outcomes," says Steinmann.
The session also included a powerful inside look at the matter from the perspective of young people. Attendees heard from young people who are actively vaping, are around those who vape and who are trying to negotiate the influences around them. These first-hand accounts and viewpoints provided valuable insight for parents and caregivers as they continue to help their children navigate the choices before them.