Kelowna school officials main concern isn't marijuana — it's vaping | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna school officials main concern isn't marijuana — it's vaping

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May 08, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - Legalized marijuana hasn't raised many new concerns and cigarettes are at the bottom of the list — the student vice that has Central Okanagan School District principals on high alert is the growing use of vapes.

Superintendent Kevin Kaardal has said suspensions for marijuana use was nearly identical before and after legalization. But vaping has far surpassed cigarettes among students using on school time.

"All principals are concerned with the increased use [of vapes] in secondary schools," he said.

Kaardal said vapes combine the problems of old fashioned cigarettes with more modern issues. Health Canada has plenty of concerns about the use of vapes, including the consumption of chemicals and nicotine. While it considers vapes a better alternative to cigarettes, that's a general statement for people who already consume nicotine through cigarettes.

That's not helpful for kids who are introduced to nicotine through vapes. 

Vapes present a newer problem for schools. Kaardal said they often look like pens or lipsticks, allowing students to hide them in plain sight.

"Vapes don't belong on school property," Kaardal said.

He said a few schools have had to call health professionals three times because students had bad reactions to vape contents.

Kaardal's approach to battling vapes in secondary schools is both proactive and reactive. First, he thinks educating students about the dangers of vapes and e-cigarettes in middle school is a great way to stop any bad habits from forming. He also said school officials will be more vigilant with vapes on school property.

"We will begin confiscating vape products and making parents aware [of them]," Kaardal said.

Awareness is key for Kaardal. He's currently working with members of Interior Health to draft a letter explaining the dangers of vapes. He plans to send the letter to parents this week.

Vapes pose a unique challenge for schools and students because, as Kaardal sees it, they carry a bounty of potential health problems.

"There are unknown risks because it's a new activity," he said.

Health Canada acknowledges that many of the risks of vaping are unknown. Many of the chemicals in vape juice are approved for consumption, but long term effects of inhalation are not yet known. 

It says vapes increase the risk of nicotine poisoning for users and children, particularly if they are not stored carefully and vape liquid is swallowed. An often cited concern is called 'popcorn lung' but "there have been no reports of popcorn lung occurring due to vaping."

The Central Okanagan school district houses roughly 22,000 students in Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, and Lake Country in 43 schools, five of which are secondary schools.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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