Around 275 parents took part in a community conversation on youth & vaping hosted by the North Vancouver School District and Foundry North Shore on February 25. Nearly 100 attended in-person with another 175 watching online mainly from BC, but also from other provinces, the USA and New Zealand.
A presentation by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) addictions physician Dr. Milan Khara was followed by a panel discussion with Seycove Secondary principal Pam Craven, Grade 11 student Isobel Casey and parent Tannis Hendriks.
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product (also known as an electronic cigarette). Such products usually contain nicotine.
Dr. Khara said though they may be valuable tools to help adults with smoking cessation, vaping products are illegal to sell to those under 19 years of age. Current regulations, he notes, “try to tread that line between protecting youth and making e-cigarettes containing nicotine available for adult smokers."
He highlighted that one of the main problems is that the health effects of vaping are unknown. “We just don't have enough long-term use to say it's harmless," he said, adding there is also the danger of individuals graduating to traditional cigarettes once addicted to nicotine.
With more than 8,000 flavours of vape liquid on the market, including crème brûlée, cotton candy and gummi bear, Dr. Khara doubts vape manufacturers' claims they are not marketed towards youth. “This in an industry that talks out of both sides of its mouth," he notes. “They talk about 'protecting the health of young people, but their marketing does not back that up."
He says young people are initially drawn to vaping “to look cool, to fit in."
Isobel says most people in her year vape or have tried it. “I only know one person in my school who's never tried vaping," she said. Her advice is to educate kids about the dangers of vaping in Grade 6 and 7, before they get to high school. She also thinks more needs to be done to help youth who are addicted quit.
VCH tobacco reduction coordinator Lindsay MacDonald, who took part in the Q&A, agrees. She said messages about prevention really resonate with younger audiences and encouraged parents to ask school educators to take a proactive approach to vaping prevention.
Terry Bulych, team leader for Youth Mental Health & Substance Use at VCH/Foundry North Shore wrapped up the night. Bulych highlighted the services Foundry provides to youth ages 12 to 24 and how youth can access mental health care, substance use services, primary care, social services, and youth and family peer supports.
VIDEO: Feb 25/19 “Community conversation on youth & vaping - information, considerations & impacts" event
Health Canada – Talking with your teen about vaping: a tip sheet for parents