Vaping is believed to be the culprit behind some local teens spitting up blood, according to Vernon School District substance abuse counsellor Doug Rogers.
“In one case we saw that, a young person who is in our vaping quit group,” Rogers said. “And it’s happened to another person. This is what we’re seeing, it’s the lung damage.”
The gruesome consequences of the new smoking trend were laid out at a presentation on vaping at Vernon Secondary School on Jan. 21. The Vernon School District hosted the event with some local experts in an effort to educate parents and teens. A small crowd of approximately 20 people turned out for the presentation.
“We’re now finding some significant consequences of that,” UBC Okanagan psychology professor Marvin Krank said. “The acute cases of lung disease that we’re seeing now suggest that they may be even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes.”
Because most of the chemicals in vape juice are not approved for inhalation into the lungs, there are serious effects, according to Krank. He points to a certain chemical in microwave popcorn, which is approved for ingestion, but not inhalation — hence the term popcorn lung.
And that is just one of the short-term effects.
“We don’t know, but the long term is looking kind of iffy,” Krank said.
Meanwhile, the number of youth vaping in British Columbia is the highest in the Interior region, according to Emelia Gazsity, a tobacco enforcement officer within the Integrated Tobacco Team — part of Interior Health’s Population Health portfolio.
“Interior Health had the highest number — 29 per cent — in a one-month period, vaped,” she said. “And out of that 29 per cent, 64 per cent used nicotine.”
With thousands of different flavours to choose from and 230 locations just in the Interior to purchase vape products, it is readily available and enticing.
Gazsity is just one of four enforcement officers in the region, but is working hard to ensure underage youth are not being sold products.
She would like to see a restriction on the sale of flavours, appealing to youth, as well as regulating nicotine content.
“A jule has the equivalent of 2.5-3 packs of cigarettes, one pod,” said Gazsity, noting youth can become addicted within 24 hours.
This is why youth are so much more addicted, according to the three speakers.
“They realize it’s not a healthy choice, but the nicotine is so high that they quickly become addicted and that’s the part we need to help them with,” said Rogers, who has implemented support and actions to help teens who want to quit.
“We choose not to ignore it because we worry about the health of our kids.”
The surge in nicotine use within the Vernon School District is blamed on vaping.
“Some of the studies shows that it reduces smoking, but it does not reduce nicotine addiction,” Krank said. “It transfers one addiction for another. In youth, it’s interesting, it works the other way around, youth who start vaping start smoking later on.”
For many, the cost of vaping becomes too much so they resort to cigarettes to fulfil their habit.
The school district has taken drastic efforts, including more than 200 suspensions so far this year. But Rogers admits education is the real key: “We are not going to suspend our way out of this or discipline our way out of this.”
The in-school suspensions include writing a report on vaping and getting youth who want help the resources to do so through nicotine cessation programs.
Plus, teachers have a duty under the school act to stop underage youth from smoking and vaping.
“If we don’t enforce it in school it is the administrators who will be fined — $1,500 the first time and $3,000 the second time,” Rogers said. “So the government wants us to do something about this, so we are.”