The number of suspensions alone prove vaping among Vernon teens is skyrocketing. And officials are highly concerned about the smoke and mirrors most youth have been fed about vaping.
The Vernon School District had one vaping suspension five years ago. But last year saw 206.
“And we are on pace this year to go far past that,” district substance abuse counsellor Doug Rogers said.
The alarming number of youth sucking back nicotine and cannabis from vapes has officials concerned. Therefore, the district is bringing a free presentation to town, Talking to Your Kids about Vaping, on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. at Vernon Secondary School.
The evening is open to parents, guardians, youth and anyone interested in learning from a few experts on the topic of vaping.
“This is back by popular command,” said Rogers, who estimates that 30 per cent of Vernon’s high school students are vaping.
The good news is the number of youth smoking cigarettes has decreased.
“Vapes far pass smoking.
“They made the switch, but they made the switch to something they thought was far healthier,” said Rogers, who attended a national vaping conference in June in San Francisco for educators, which, “rang the bell that this is an emergency.”
The fact is, vaping is not healthier, as experts like Marvin Krank, PhD, now conclude.
“I think it actually might be more dangerous,” said UBCO psychology professor Krank, who has done extensive research into adolescents and addiction, but admits vaping is a new phenomenon. “The short-term lung damage that can be caused by vaping is really gross and cigarettes don’t do that. And we don’t know what they do in the long term.”
Krank will discuss options for talking to youth in a more helpful way, particularly when dealing with those who are already hooked and enlightening them to want to quit.
“There’s no easy answer, nicotine is highly addictive,” said Krank, who has been featured in Maclean’s and National Post articles about how vaping companies are targeting youth in advertising and promotion.
“They say they aren’t doing it anymore, but they are,” he said as technology is being designed to hook young people, such as vapewear sweaters and watches.
“Since we know how addictive it is, it really is problematic.”
Rogers sees it everyday, bathrooms are full of kids vaping, and some are even brazen enough to vape right in the classrooms.
“They do this all day, and blow it in their hoodie,” said Rogers, adding that schools now have most of it on video, yet youth still try and deny what they are doing, to which he responds: “Either you’re on fire or you’re vaping.”
Teens, and adults, that vape often claim that it is helping them to quit smoking.
“That is not true,” Rogers said. “It’s not a smoking cessation device, it’s a smoking teaching device.”
In fact, vapes are training youth how to smoke, and it’s causing a disturbing trend, Rogers said.
“This is the first time we’ve seen cigarette smoking increase. We’ve declined tobacco use for 50 years and now we’ve seen a blip where it’s increased.”
There is also the switch in cannabis consumption, as there’s been a shift from smoking marijuana to vaping it, which hides the smell, but not the effects.
Whatever they are vaping, Rogers said the effect is profound among students: less concentration, daily preoccupation and taking longer to come back to class.
“They’re not concentrating on their studies, they are worried about when they are going to get their next vape.”
A working group at Kalamalka Secondary has been aimed at helping kids to stop, and even recently saw three boys come to them saying they needed help to stop.
“These are good kids: football players, basketball players, and they are experimenting. How can bubblegum-flavoured vape hurt me?” Rogers said.
Tyler Hansen, the school district’s assistant substance abuse counsellor, has created a presentation for schools about the, “serious and still not fully understood risks involved in vaping.”
“We let this happen before we properly regulated it and now we’re having to come in through the back door. The way it was marketed a lot of these kids didn’t even know there’s nicotine in it,” Hansen said.
The level of addiction continues to shock and awe staff, students and families.
“They hand us all their stuff (through the working group) and we’re talking hundreds of dollars worth of vape pens, and they go right back out and buy it again,” Rogers said.
But he asks, can you blame them when: “you can buy tobacco from 6,000 places in B.C., and at 93,000, you can buy vapes.”
Plus, there are the effects on those who have no interest in vaping breathing in this relatively new substance.
“You and your children who don’t vape need to demand clean air,” Rogers said.
While teachers and counsellors are trying to help kids quit the vape pens and stick to ballpoints, it’s taking up a lot of teaching time.
“It’s taken a lot of time away from what we should be doing,” Rogers said.