Don’t Let Them Down: Understanding Youth Vaping and What We Can Do About It

On April 23, 2020, the BC Alliance for Healthy Living hosted an engaging webinar on youth vaping.

This webinar featured three leaders from organizations doing important work on understanding youth vaping and what we can do about it.

In a study that made headlines across Canada last year, public Health researcher, Dr. David Hammond found that vaping increased by a stunning 74% among 16-19 year olds from 2017 to 2018; and cigarette smoking increased by 45% in the same period. Now some researchers are warning that smoking (and potentially vaping) may heighten the severity of COVID-19.

Presenter Chris Lam from the BC Lung Association started the webinar off by stating unequivocally that vaping products are harmful to youth.  From nicotine to unregulated harmful substances, we know these stimulants have an effect on brain development and can lead to smoking and other harmful behaviours. With lung health top of mind, the BC Lung Association continues to work hard to bring together a community of experts, concerned stakeholders and youth – to address, understand and ultimately prevent youth vaping.

Presenter Annie Smith from McCreary Centre Society then talked about some of the findings from the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey. An open-ended question at the end of the survey asked youth if there was anything more about their health they would like to learn. The third most popular request (after mental health and sexual health) was about substance use including the following questions about vaping: Is vaping addictive? Is it OK to vape? What does vaping do to you? How do I quit vaping? What are the effects of vaping? I play sports and vape. Is that OK? These questions demonstrate that youth need the facts and would benefit from seeing these questions addressed in their school curriculum.

Presenter Art Steinmann from SACY (Supporting and Connecting Youth) Substance Use Health Promotion Initiative Program at the Vancouver School Board provided a deeper understanding about healthy adolescent experimentation and why they may want to try vaping. One of the many interesting points he raised was that adults usually view vaping as a drug and vapes as drug paraphernalia, but youth tend to see vapes as a fashion item or new piece of technology. Art finished the webinar by speaking about taking a nuanced approach – he emphasized the importance of really listening to youth, supporting their passions and interests and prioritizing the relationship above all else.

There is much we have yet to learn about vaping, youth vaping and next steps.  But the important work that is underway is moving us forward on this timely issue.  

If you missed this webinar, you can find the full recording below.

If you would like to learn more about QuitNow, and the Vaping Prevention Toolkit and other resources, please visit bclung.ca.  If you’re interested in reading about the most recent BC Adolescent Health Survey and other important work from McCreary Centre Society, please visit mcs.bc.ca.  You can follow SACY: Substance Use Health Promotion Initiative here.

 

SPEAKER PROFILES:

BC Lung Association:

Christopher Lam is the President and CEO of the British Columbia Lung Association. His work includes initiatives on a provincial vaping strategy, including programming and policy development. Chris is also spearheading the first Asthma Education Centre for Children as well as a provincial Lung Health Network, providing patients with an advocacy voice. He has a two-year-old son who loves being outdoors, exploring and getting really dirty. Chris, his son and his wife live nestled in at the base of Burnaby Mountain.

McCreary Centre Society: 

Annie Smith has been the Executive Director of McCreary Centre Society (McCreary) since 2006. McCreary is a non-governmental not-for-profit committed to improving the health of BC youth through research, evaluation and community based projects.  Annie has conducted a number of recent research projects about youth and vaping and is currently working on a full-length community friendly report about tobacco use and vaping among BC adolescents.

SACY (Supporting and Connecting Youth) Substance Use Health Promotion Initiative at the Vancouver School Board: 

Art Steinmann is the Manager of the Supporting and Connecting Youth (SACY)- Substance Use Health Promotion Initiative Program at the Vancouver School Board (VSB). This initiative, now in its 15th year, engages parents, teachers, students, administrators and the greater community to strengthen school-based alcohol and drug prevention and early-intervention programs and policies.  Vaping education is a part of this work and Art will speak about what is happening in school(s), policies and programs in place and how vaping is impacting youth. Previous to working at VSB, Art worked as a private consultant and prior to that was Executive Director of a substance use prevention non-profit organization for 18 years. Art enjoys many activities in beautiful Vancouver with his wife and family.

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