Local school boards are sounding the alarm on teen vaping and it’s past time for the province to respond. St. Albert Public Schools, Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools and Red Deer Public Schools took a joint resolution to the Alberta School Boards Association last weekend to call on all levels of government to restrict youth access to vaping products.
The boards are also calling on Alberta’s Ministries of Education and Health to research the health effects of vaping and how to combat those impacts.
Parents, teachers, municipal leaders and doctors are no doubt keeping a close eye on Alberta’s review of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, which began earlier this month and is expected to address vaping once the government is through with it. We’re keeping a close eye on it, too – we’ve opined many times about the harms of vaping and the need for legislation.
Alberta lags behind all other provinces in regard to its laws on vaping. We stand alone as the only province not to have introduced legislation restricting advertising and sale of these products. So why are we dragging our feet? These laws don’t require us to reinvent the wheel – all across Canada, we can find examples of vaping legislation we could adopt here at home.
Saskatchewan introduced legislation this month to treat vaping like smoking, setting a minimum age for the purchase of vapes, banning product displays in stores where youth are allowed and banning vaping around schools and public buildings. B.C. just proposed the toughest laws in the country, hiking taxes on vaping products from seven to 20 per cent, capping nicotine content and banning some flavours of vapes that appeal to kids. Most provinces also restrict advertising. In 2017, Manitoba introduced strict signage rules prohibiting ads anywhere vapes are sold, except for specific vape shops where minors are not allowed. B.C. has also cracked down on advertising, prohibiting ads where young people gather.
Yet in Alberta, the vaping industry is still a free-for-all. Some vendors may choose to sell their products responsibly, but it’s a common sight for vapes to be displayed at eye level for kids, with appealing flavours and packaging. Some municipalities have introduced their own bylaws to regulate vaping, but there’s no overarching legislation to help stop the spread of these products among youth.
For those who don’t see the importance of restricting this industry, consider this: vaping rates shot up 74 per cent among 16-to 19-year-olds between 2017 and 2018; 2,172 people in the U.S. across 49 states have been diagnosed with vaping-related lung injury as of Nov. 13 and 42 of them have died; and almost a quarter of high school students in Alberta say they’ve tried vaping in the last month. If those statistics don’t scare you, here’s another one: smoking rates have increased among Canadian youth for the first time since 2008, a trend many believe is linked to the prevalence of vaping.
Although the province plans to begin taxing vaping products in the new year, as of this month the Alberta government had no plans to expedite its review of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act. The longer Alberta draws out this process, the greater the health risk is to our youth.