Student vaping is a concern for the Cowichan Valley Board of Education. (Black Press file)

Cowichan Board of Education exploring anti-vaping strategy

Members of the Cowichan Valley Board of Education want to be able to roll with ever-changing societal norms to ensure they’re doing their very best for the SD79 students under their charge. To do so, sometimes the board needs to do some learning as well.

Chair Candace Spilsbury confirmed Friday that the board is working with Island Health and Our Cowichan Communities Health Network to learn more about vaping and the associated risks and dangers and to create a plan to develop community awareness around it.

Vaping — using electronic cigarettes — has gained in popularity over the last few years and for many is thought to be less hazardess than smoking. That’s not necessarily the case.

“It can increase exposure to harmful chemicals, it can lead to nicotine addiction and, really, the long term consequences are unknown,” Spilsbury said. “So we thought to do due diligence around the health of our students and our schools, we should be researching, finding out more about it and making the community aware of the negative effects of vaping.”

Spilsbury said the project began after seeing some students in the district vaping.

“They’re very noticeable,” she said. That, combined with hearing the Canadian Health Survey had indicated about 24 per cent of students across Canada in their teenage years (Grade 7-12) have at least tried vaping was enough for the Board of Education to want to learn more.

“We know that it’s risky behaviour, because it’s not harmless,” Spilsbury said.

Times are changing and the school board is doing its best to keep up.

“It is important when you’re thinking about the whole child,” Spilsbury noted. “It’s not just reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, like in the old days. It’s looking at social responsibility, all of that context that creates healthy individuals and a healthy society.”

Medical health officer Dr. Shannon Waters said Island Health is on board.

”Island Health has identified it as a priority to educate students about the dangers of vaping and we recognize the importance of working together on this initiative with our community partners, including School District 79,” Waters said.

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