By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
AS ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR STARTS, I am hopeful and excited but also worried. I am hopeful that thousands of British Columbians will eagerly return to school, but I am also worried that hundreds of youth will end this year addicted to nicotine.
Vaping use is on the rise and John Horgan’s government needs to act now before more teens get hooked on vaping, more lives are damaged by addiction, and more strain is put on our health care system.
Despite growing warnings about the dramatic increase in youth vaping the NDP would rather sit on their hands and wait for the federal government to act. This inaction puts youth health and safety at risk.
Earlier this summer an article published in the British Medical Journal showed a dramatic spike in vaping among Canadian teens, indicating that the practice by those aged 16 to 19 is up 74 percent in the past year.
The study also showed that cigarette use is increasing alongside vaping. That means that our current efforts are not enough. We need government involvement to make a sustained change in the fight against this epidemic.
Numerous states, provinces and municipalities are currently introducing more stringent vaping regulations into law. Just last week, Michigan became the first U.S. state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes as part of their efforts to curb youth vaping by preventing companies from using flavours specifically intended to hook children on nicotine. So why isn’t B.C.?
Vaping can be used as a tool for smoking cessation. Adult use, though troubling, is not my concern. The issue lies when it comes to the parts of vaping that are attractive to youth. Slick packaging and fruit-based flavours combined with modern devices like Juuls that are easily hidden and consumed is a bad mix.
A concerted effort by all levels of government is required to combat this. Though I understand that the Minister of Health has reached out to federal counterparts, that does very little to actually address or deal with this problem. Considering we are in the middle of an election cycle, he is basically wasting his breath.
During the spring legislative session I introduced a private members bill aiming to curb youth vape use. The bill sets to amend the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act. The amendments included banning the sale of flavoured vapour products, limiting the supply and accessibility of e-cigarette products through stricter retail controls, keeping the sale of products to adult-only tobacco stores, vape stores and approved pharmacies, and enacting tougher penalties for non-compliance.
The NDP must look at this bill again this fall and starting acting.
Advertising rules needs to be changed. Currently in B.C. vaping products are allowed to be advertised more freely than traditional tobacco products. This makes them come off as less harmful. However the nicotine and other additives in vape e-juice can be very damaging to a developing adolescent brain. That is why we need to do everything possible to curb youth use.
Government needs to help fund educational programs in every middle and high school across B.C. Implementing evidence-based vaping awareness, prevention and support programs requires parent and teacher intervention but also peer pressure.
The stigma needs to change. Every year vaping creates more addicts, and studies show that adolescent e-cigarette use correlates to cigarette use later in life.
The solution starts with action and Horgan’s NDP government needs to start acting like they care before more youth are affected.
Todd Stone is the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson.