Show a student a cigarette and most will turn up their nose in disgust against the cancer-causing addiction.
But a new trend, targeting youth with fruity flavours, is becoming the norm at local high schools.
Vape pens are a growing concern in the Vernon School District, along with pot.
So the school district will bring Dr. Marvin Krank to Vernon Secondary for a free public presentation Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m., called Challenging New Trends in Substance Use in Youth: Vaping and Cannabis legalization.
“Good kids get caught up in this,” explained Doug Rogers, the school district’s substance abuse prevention counsellor. “Believing the non-reality that it’s safe, or safer.
“When you add sweet flavours to it, like bubblegum, the kids enjoy it and they don’t see any downside.”
Vapes and e-cigarettes are largely aimed at youth, said Krank.
“They’re not trying to get me smoking again,” he said.
In fact, he says kids are starting as early as Grade 6, and sometimes younger.
Krank, a UBCO professor of psychology with a cognition and substance use lab, points to research that vaping is even harder to quit than cigarettes.
“We know there’s a lot of nicotine in them,” said Krank. “So we’re seeing a big rise in nicotine use rise with all of this.”
In fact, cigarette use has increased as vapes are largely expensive, therefore once addicted, some move onto cigarettes as they are more accessible, he explained.
But even those who stick to vapes are at a great health risk.
“It’s a form of poison,” said Rogers. “This one scares me the most.”
Krank adds: “Just the cardiovascular effects of nicotine is something to be concerned about, plus there’s suspicion that it can lead to popcorn lung and other things.”
And it isn’t just a Vernon problem.
“This is an epidemic in North America,” said Rogers, adding that kids can easily access vapes and juice online as well as through parents who also believe it is better than smoking cigarettes.
“Do you think it’s a good idea to be sucking anything into your lungs?” he questioned.
Meanwhile school administration and district staff are tasked with enforcement while youth are at school.
“It’s off school property because that’s the law. If we as the adults don’t enforce it we get fined,” said Rogers, who spends a significant part of his day dealing with vaping, something he never had to deal with six years ago.
“But that’s not why we do it, we do it because we want to help protect the health of the kids.”
The legalization of cannabis is another area that schools are struggling with.
There are a few misconceptions. Basically none of them are good for kids
Krank will share some of the age-related risks of cannabis use, as well as e-cigarettes.
He will also talk about the misleading ways that drug use is cast and suggest how parents can keep informed and help their kids make healthier choices.
This presentation is free to the public and pre-registration is not required.