While many areas of society are still engaged in the debate on whether or not e-cigarettes are an acceptable alternative to traditional tobacco products, J.L. Crowe Secondary has stepped up and announced that it has banned the electronic instruments from school property, as of Wednesday.
E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes or vapourizers, are battery-powered devices that use a heating element to turn any one of a variety of liquid solutions into a vapour, which can be inhaled, similar to smoking cigarettes or cigars.
Earlier in the year, Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools for School District 20, sent out a district-wide memo prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes on all district grounds, buildings, buses, and vehicles.
“I guess it’s definitely a concern, adolescents experiment and if a 13-year-old girl or boy is making a bad health choice we feel it’s our responsibility to discourage it,” Dave DeRosa, principal at JL Crowe, said last week. “Our focus on it is as an educational health and safety concern. I understand there may have been good intent originally, to reduce harm, but there seems to be a proliferation of flavours targeted towards children. It entices them to engage in addictive behavior at an influential age.”
The solutions used in the e-cigs can come in a wide variety of flavours and, most controversially, with varying amounts of nicotine, which can be inhaled as a component of the vapour.
They produce no actual smoke and very little noticeable smell but can still give the appearance of an individual in the act of smoking a cigarette.
E-cigarettes are available online and in a number of locations around the Greater Trail area.
“I knew it was coming,” said Simon Boka, co-owner of Sound West Audio Video Unlimited in Trail.
“The biggest problem is a lack of education, people see it as an ‘attack on our kids’ but it really isn’t. I do not sell nicotine products to anyone under 19. We sell the kits and parts but no nicotine.”
Boka maintains that e-cigarettes are an effective way for people who are already addicted to tobacco to quit smoking by using the electronic version to eventually reduce their dependence on nicotine, the primary addictive substance in tobacco products.
“There is about an 80 per cent success rate with people using this product,” Boka said. “It won’t help if you don’t want to quit but it takes away the craving and it’s visual, when you see the vapour you feel like you’re smoking, it seems to work better but you only exhale steam. There’s a bias against smoking and people see it and think of smoking.”
While DeRosa acknowledges that while even some of the students are using the e-cigs to quit real cigarettes, an increase of reports of students using the devices in and around the school has lead to the ban.
The health and safety memo in the school’s newsletter states that, “e-cigarettes observed on school property will be confiscated and turned into the office and the student will be warned. Parents will be contacted and the e-cigarette will be turned over to the parent. Repeat offenses will result in further discipline and possibly leading to suspension for defiance.”
DeRosa explains that one concern is where the devices are being used and another is possible sharing of the devices which could lead to younger students adopting the habit.
“Historically, in a population of 850 to 900 students we have 20 to 25 per cent are chronic users of tobacco products,” he said. “We have had some senior students who are using them to quit and we tell them that it is their responsibility to not share them, to ensure that others are not using them for other reasons. Don’t have it out in school.
“We’re worried about normalizing new behavior and a new product when we’re not really aware of the consequences over time and, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be any real control over the product. We provide supports and services through a child and youth care worker to meet with kids to support them to quit.
“Kids need to know about what are the rules and what are the consequences and we just want to be clear about that.”