By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
ONE OF THE MOST satisfying parts of being in public office is the ability to kick-start positive change. To see an issue, understand how it’s affecting British Columbians, and do what one can to diminish the downside or eliminate the problem entirely.
It’s a privilege to be able to make a difference as an elected official, something that I don’t take for granted. So, given my role as a member of B.C’s Legislature, and as a Dad of three school-aged daughters, my stand against adolescent vaping is one of which I am very proud.
Before going any further, it must be stated that e-cigarette use – otherwise known as vaping – can be a useful smoking cessation tool for some adult smokers to move away from the more risky practice of smoking traditional cigarettes.
However, while we’ve made great progress as a society in reducing cigarette smoking among adolescents, vaping is quickly becoming a significant public health concern impacting the current generation of British Columbia’s youth.
Recent Canadian estimates suggest that a third of students in Grades 10 through 12 are vaping, outpacing tobacco use at an alarming rate.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently declared e-cigarette use as a top public health concern, publicly stating that “we must protect our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.”
These products are deliberately made attractive to youth. They are easy to conceal, and have no noticeable odour. Vape juice increasingly contains highly addictive nicotine and ‘kid-friendly’ flavouring like fruit medley, gummy bear and cotton candy. But canvass most British Columbians and it’s clear that the dangers of vaping for our kids are not clearly understood.
Many teenagers have shared stories with me about their friends who are addicted to vaping. About being fearful of encountering clouds of vapour in their school bathrooms. About their peers using Juuls or other discrete vape pods in class or vape pits on and/or adjacent to school property.
Simply put, this is not okay. And, what is clear, is that more needs to be done.
This is why earlier this month I introduced a private members bill in the Legislature called the Vulnerable Adolescents Protection from E-cigarettes (VAPE) Act 2019. This bill contains amendments to the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act, all of which are focused on doing more to better keep these addictive vaping products out of the hands of our children.
Specifically, these amendments include:
- Banning the sale of flavoured vapour products;
- Limiting the supply and accessibility of e-cigarette products through stricter retail controls, restricting the sale of products to adult-only tobacco stores, vape stores and approved pharmacies; and,
- Enacting tougher penalties for non-compliance.
Alongside these amendments we also need to provide the resources required in every middle and high school across B.C. to implement evidence-based vaping awareness, prevention and addiction support programs.
There have been several such successful pilot programs – like one offered in select Vernon high schools called ‘Preventure’ – but political will, and resources are needed to expand these programs to all schools across our province.
Parents, teachers, administrators, health professionals, and legislators must come together to better protect the health of our kids. I’m hopeful that amendments contained within my private members bill will help us work towards that objective.