Owen MacDonald, left, and Mattias Cheung of the District Student Advisory Council attend a Board of Education Regular Public Meeting on Jan. 28.

Students warning students about vaping

An increasing amount of evidence is pointing to the negative effects of vaping on health. At the same time, the number of young people taking up vaping across Canada is rising dramatically.

The scenario is troubling, including here in School District No. 57, and it prompted the SD 57 District Student Advisory Council to take action.

DSAC is formed mostly by secondary school students from across the district and includes a small number of elementary school kids. In an effort to snuff out vaping before it starts, select senior members of DSAC have been giving presentations in elementary schools, informing the youngsters about the risks of the habit-forming activity.

“So far we have gone to three elementary schools – Heritage, College Heights Elementary and Pinewood – and we’ve done presentations at all of them about the dangers of vaping,” DSAC vice chair Owen MacDonald told trustees and onlookers at the Board of Education Regular Public Meeting on Jan. 28. “So far, we’ve had great feedback from all the schools and we are in the process of booking other elementary schools such as Buckhorn and Heather Park Elementary.”

The idea for the anti-vaping presentations originated with MacDonald, a Grade 12 student at Duchess Park Secondary School.

“In my time in high school, I have seen the vaping epidemic grow exponentially,” he told the board in December. “So, I’ve taken it upon myself to make a presentation that the DSAC members are going to take to elementary schools to help educate the elementary school kids – to just bring knowledge about vaping and the long-term effects of it. In high school, if you tell kids not to vape they’re not really going to like it but if you go and head it off at the elementary school level then that will help a whole other generation learn the harms of vaping.”

Board Chair Tim Bennett used the word “incredible” to describe the DSAC initiative.

“I know vaping has been a concern of this board,” Bennett said at the Jan. 28 gathering. “It has come up in several meetings. I think we’re all smiling and we’re all incredibly proud of the work DSAC is doing on this. Quite often we talk to our colleagues around the province and we hear that their student advisory councils have ideas and we’re just so proud that you’ve been able to translate these ideas into action.”

Trustee Ron Polillo, who serves as liaison between the board and DSAC, tipped his hat to all the DSAC members for their efforts on behalf of students throughout the district.

“Working with these students for the last year now, I’ve seen the progression and the growth in their student voice,” Polillo said during the meeting. “We’re really encouraging them to utilize that student voice and I’ve seen it in action. The vaping presentation in particular is a great example of that.”

Polillo then addressed MacDonald directly.

“All the members of DSAC do great work but I want to do a special shoutout to you, Owen, because I know you led the charge on this vaping presentation, so well done for you in showing leadership in presenting that. I know from media reports and talking to staff and students that it’s making an impact and making a difference so I applaud you and the entire committee for that great work.”

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product, such as an electronic cigarette. The device heats a liquid into a vapour, which then turns into aerosol. This vapour is often flavoured and may contain the addictive substance nicotine, (source: Government of Canada).

While the long-term health effects of vaping are not yet understood, the British Columbia Lung Association has pointed to research that indicates people who vape increase their heart rates and potentially damage the lining of their arteries, causing blood vessels to stiffen. The BCLA also notes that the chemicals in the aerosol inhaled are suspected or known to cause cancer.

In June 2019, the Canadian Cancer Society quoted a study published in the British Medical Journal that found a 74 per cent rise in youth vaping (ages 16 to 19) in Canada from 2017 to 2018.