Trustee Norah Bowman

Central Okanagan Public Schools trustee Norah Bowman wants the area's next MPs to help keep vaping products out of the hands of youth.

Central Okanagan Public Schools is expected to increase its offensive against vaping with a letter to the region’s candidates in the Oct. 21 federal election.

“I brought this forward as a late motion for tonight’s (Wednesday’s) school board meeting,” said trustee Norah Bowman.

“I don’t want to presume that it will pass, but it does fit with our efforts to keep vaping products out of the hands of youth. With the federal election coming up, it’s a perfect time to bring this issue to the forefront one more time.”

If passed, the motion would see Central Okanagan Public Schools, which teaches 23,350 students at 44 schools, write a letter to all candidates for MP in the Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola ridings.

That letter will ask how, if elected, the MP will address the “serious danger that vaping poses to children and, in particular, the marketing of vaping products to children.”

Bowman noted that vapes (also known as e-cigarettes) and vape juice (also known as e-juice) are marketed to appeal to children although it is against the law to sell or provide any vapour products to someone under the age of 19.

“Vapes and vape juice have cartoon themes and candy flavours that appeal to youth,” she said. “Such marketing can’t be done with cigarettes.”

Central Okanagan Public Schools prompted the B.C. School Trustees Association to lobby both the provincial and federal governments for tougher regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes and vapour products to minors, including banning the sale of products marketed specifically to young people.

“We need urgent leadership from both the provincial and federal governments on this,” said Bowman.

In May, Central Okanagan superintendent of schools Kevin Kaardal sent a letter to all parents and guardians outlining the dangers of vaping, and explaining that it’s illegal for youth and what happens if a student is caught vaping on school property. Any vape products on campus may be confiscated.

Kaardal is sending out a similar letter to all parents and guardians shortly to reinforce the school district’s position for the 2019-20 school year.

Vaping started as a less-harmful alternative to smoking cigarettes.

Burning cigarettes produces carbon and cancer-causing chemicals.

Nothing is burnt with vaping, but the e-juice is heated and the user effectively inhales and exhales an aerosol.

The aerosol contains addictive nicotine, just as tobacco cigarettes do, as well as glycerol, flavours and propylene glycol, which when heated can create new harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, certain metals and other contaminants.

Nicotine is especially harmful to youth as it can alter brain development and affect memory and concentration.

The vape itself is a battery-powered device that can look like a USB memory stick, lipstick tube or ballpoint pen.

Such containers are easily concealed in the palm of the hand and appeal to youth as cool gadgets.

A 2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey found 29% of kids in Grades 7-12 in the Okanagan had used vape products with nicotine in the last month.

Besides becoming addicted to nicotine and being exposed to harmful chemicals, vape users can also suffer respiratory illness and lung damage, including popcorn lung, the nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans, the condition that wrecks the lungs’ smallest airways and causes coughing and shortness of breath.