More and more students vaping inside schools
Vaping is on the rise among young people, more and more of whom are even using their electronic cigarettes inside secondary schools, deplore school workers.
• Read also: Youth vaping on the rise
• Read also: Pandemic: vaping on the rise among young people to reduce stress
• Read also: Youth vaping needs to be talked about
Almost all of the young vapers encountered by The newspaper this week near two secondary schools in Quebec claimed to have already used their electronic cigarette inside the school.
Some even darevapein class, when the teacher’s back is turned. “I saw you this morning during math class,” a boy said to one of his friends, smirking.
Another 13-year-old student, who has been vaping for two years now, also does it regularly indoors. “We meet in the toilets during class,” she explains. A friend of hers, who has already been caught in the act, received a warning and a call at home to tell her parents.
The growing popularity of vaping among young people, which is now seeping into the walls of schools, is of concern to many school stakeholders.
“We see more and more of them in bathrooms, in locker rooms, in classrooms,” laments Martine Labbé, special education teacher at Saint-Marc secondary school, in Portneuf.
In this establishment, one in three students vapes occasionally or regularly, regardless of age. In secondary year 1, more than half of young people have already tried electronic cigarettes.
“In five years, we have seen a dazzling increase, it is really worrying. They trivialize it so much, they don’t realize that nicotine is addictive, » adds Ms.me Labbe.
It is precisely because young people are “addicted” to electronic cigarettes that they cannot help but vape inside secondary schools, affirms Annie Papageorgiou, director general of the Quebec Council on tobacco and health.
“Several schools contact us because they no longer know what to do with the problem. It is clear that it is present,” she said.
The organization is currently working with approximately 80 high schools across the province that have implemented action plans to counter vaping among young people, as is the case at Saint-Marc high school.
The strategy developed focuses first on information and prevention, rather than repression. “We want to remove the coolness associated with vaping to talk about the facts. We know that with teenagers, raising awareness and informing has more impact than having consequences,” says Ms.me Papageorgiou.
However, most of the students encountered by The newspaper are well aware of the harmful impacts of vaping on their health. But for many, the damage is already done.
“I started vaping two years ago because it was cool. Now I continue because I’m addicted, says a 16-year-old student. I have tried several times to stop, but I am not able.
FIVE TIMES MORE YOUNG PEOPLE DO IT
■ The number of young Quebecers aged 11 to 17 who vape has quintupled in six years, going from 4% at 21% between 2013 and 2019.
■ In secondary four and five, a third of students vape.
■ Young people who use electronic cigarettes are four times more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.
■ The consumption of the vaporizer can promote the development of anxiety and concentration disorders, while having effects on brain development.
Sources: National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, Institute of Statistics of Quebec, Government of Canada (The risks of vaping, 2020).
Quebec is slow to better regulate vaping
Nearly two years after promising to better regulate vaping products, Quebec is still slow to act, deplores the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health.
In December 2020, a report from the national public health department recommended banning the sale of vaping products with a flavor other than tobacco and limiting the maximum nicotine concentration of all vaping products to 20 mg/ml. .
The Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, had then promised to “dwell quickly” to put in place these two measures.
The first turn of the screw, however, came from the federal government. In 2021, Ottawa limited the maximum nicotine concentration for vaping products to 20 mg/ml.
However, there is still a big step to take, according to the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health.
“The most important thing that we think needs to be done is the elimination of flavors. Flavors in vaping products other than neutral or tobacco should no longer be permitted. Young people tell us that if there was no flavor, they would not have started vaping,” says its general manager, Annie Papageorgiou.
Vaping liquids are currently available in several tempting flavors, such as peach, polar mint or blood orange.
Not far enough
The federal government introduced draft regulations last year that would ban all flavors in vaping products except three flavors: mint, menthol and tobacco.
This initiative does not go far enough, according to Mr.me Papageorgiou. “Menthol is the second favorite flavor of teenagers. Help us help our young people by completely eliminating flavors, ”she pleads.
At the Ministry of Health, it is reiterated that Minister Dubé “has undertaken to act to regulate vaping”. “From a public health point of view, it remains essential to ensure that these products are properly supervised,” adds its spokesperson, Marie-Claude Lacasse.
In the meantime, self-help groups are being organized in several secondary schools to help young people get rid of their addiction to nicotine.
The Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health is also working on the development of an application to support those who want to stop vaping.