School trustees from all 60 boards of education in BC came together and made their concerns heard this past October at the BCSTA Provincial Council meeting in Vancouver. It was here that a motion regarding vaping cessation targeted at youth was discussed, and ultimately passed. The motion itself received strong support from attendees, highlighting the importance of the issue. Long considered a ‘healthier’ alternative to smoking, concerns around vaping have been on the rise as of late as more and more evidence comes forward regarding its negative impacts on health.
The debate on the health risks of vaping continues but separate from this is the issue of addiction among youth. As quoted in the Globe and Mail, BCSTA President Stephanie Higginson stated “We’ve seen this movie play itself out with smoking in the past. And so we are trying to be more pro-active than we have been in the past, because we’re smarter now and we know where this is going”
The SD 58 (Nicola-Similkameen) board of education, which brought the matter to Provincial Council, cited concerns including “The use of vape pens and e-cigarettes has dramatically increased in the last few years as noted in the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) and Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS). Among people who have never smoked cigarettes, 41% who had reported using e-cigarettes were 15 to 19 years of age.”
The BC School Trustees Association took hold off this issue, raising the concern with the Federal Ministry of Health, the BC Ministry of Health and the BC Ministry of Education. In a series of media interviews, President Higginson expressed the concerns of those in public education and explained why change must take place.
The Provincial Council motion passed October 26 outlined several key asks, including “That BCSTA urge the Ministries of Health (BC and Canada), Ministry of Education and Health Authorities to make resources for youth on vape health implications and vape cessation widely available, to revise current resources and services for smoking cessation to specifically include vaping and youth and to update the language legislation vaping product ads, promotion and sponsorship to align with current tobacco legislation.
On November 14 the province introduced crucial changes to tighten teen access to vaping and e-cigarettes by 2020, including new regulation on nicotine amounts, health warnings on packaging, limits on advertising and more. “We share the urgent concerns from health professionals and parents surrounding youth vaping in our province,” said Minister of Finance Carole James.
From advocacy to action, BCSTA exists to serve and support BC’s boards of education in their key work of improving student outcomes, including concerns related to safety and well-being.