Kids lured by sleek vapes getting hooked on nicotine

Coquitlam mom worried more youth — even middle schoolers — are vaping, a concern backed by a new Canadian study

A Coquitlam parent is calling for more restrictions on the sale of vaping products after learning middle schoolers in School District 43 are getting access to vape pens and e-liquid to do smoke tricks and get a nicotine head rush.

Tracy Green, who pushed successfully to have School District 43 and Fraser Health hold two parent meetings on vaping in May, said such products should only be sold in specialty shops that are more regulated and fines should be higher for retailers that sell to kids.

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If smoke shops and convenience stores were prevented from selling vape products, enforcement might be more consistent and fewer kids might get their hands on the products, Green told The Tri-City News.

Fraser Health inspects tobacco and vapour product retailers and uses minor test shoppers as part of their inspection routines.

But Green said kids are getting their hands on the materials; she knows youngsters who have been able to buy products at a Coquitlam shop.

Kids will sometimes make a purchase, buy online or hang outside convenience stores, looking for adults to buy them vape gear.

“It’s a public health issue and I think it’s creating a lot of problems in high school and middle school having yet another high-tech device that they are trading and selling and stealing that shouldn’t be there,” Green said.

She’s also heard of some kids going into nicotine withdrawal after having their vape materials and e-liquid taken away.

SD43 has confirmed that schools are confiscating the devices.

But dealing with the issue is tricky because some parents don’t realize what’s going on, said Green, or think vaping isn’t as bad as smoking cigarettes, drinking or doing drugs.

She said apathy among parents is largely due to the lack of conclusive studies about harm related to vape products.

Meanwhile, a new study has seen a jump in vaping vaping among teens 16 to 18 years of age.

David Hammond, a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo (Ont.), said that in 2018, more youth in Canada and the U.S. tried e-cigarettes and there was a shift toward more frequent use. The study also found that smoking rates in Canada may have increased between 2017 and 2018. 

“Youth smoking rates have been declining for several decades in Canada and represent one of the most significant public health achievements,” said Hammond in a statement on the university’s website. “If the current findings are replicated in other studies, the progress in reducing youth smoking may be under threat.”

In B.C., smoking has declined among young people, according to the 2019 BC Adolescent Health Survey, and the age youth start smoking has also declined.

But the novelty of e-cigarettes, which is creating a new generation of nicotine users, could cut into gains made in B.C. over the last decade.

The province is calling on the federal government to tighten the rules. In a press release Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix welcomed the Waterloo study and said measures need to be introduced to reduce the youth appeal of the vaping device.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, meanwhile, wants the age of permitted use of vaping and smoking materials to rise to 21 from 19.

Green welcomes any measures to keep kids away from vaping and said she hopes SD43 continues to host vape awareness meetings and parents get informed about vape use — and potential harms — among kids.

“This is definitely an issue that’s not going away,” Green said.

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