School district butts in to butt out e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes will now be banned on school properties in the Cowichan Valley.

Following the urging of Paul Hasselback, medical health officer at Island Health, the district’s advisory council asked Trustee Mike McKay to include the new style smoking devices in the district’s smoke-free environment policy and he did at the April 30 meeting.

Schools superintendent Joe Rhodes explained the need for action.

“We had unanimous support for that change. It’s starting to surface in our schools. Students are starting to come on property and attempt to use electronic cigarettes,” he said. “We felt very strongly that we should support what the medical health officer was recommending. So, you will see the changes embedded in the policy in terms of defining what is prohibited.”

McKay said he supported the idea.

“I think it is something that needs to be moved on quickly in response to a rapid increase in access to this. There are health concerns, there are safety concerns. There are concerns that the e-cigarettes can house a whole bunch of different things.”

The trustee called for a “firm but gentle implementation plan.”

Rhodes assured him that information was already going out about the health hazards and the district was now going to go forward with implementing its new policy.

“I heard some stories from my other district about the problems they are bumping into with these e-cigarettes,” McKay added. “It’s quite shocking. I’m pleased to see we’re ahead of the game in Cowichan.”

Hasselback also spoke about e-cigarettes to Lake Cowichan town council at a recent meeting.

Coun. Bob Day asked Hasselback, who was giving a report to council, what Island Health was considering doing about e-cigarettes.

“Some of the flavours available indicate they are definitely aimed at young people. Do you have an opinion or is Island Health looking at any recommendations to government?” Day asked.

“We are certainly looking at this,” Hasselback responded. “If we roll back the time a bit, last year we had sent a letter to councils asking them to look at tobacco reduction. E-cigarettes were not included in that but I do think it is part of a larger package. You start with tobacco control efforts and implement them.

“We have approached the school districts and strongly urged them that e-cigarettes not be available in educational settings or town properties. That’s because there’s concern that they can be an entryway to actually using cigarettes. If you have a tobacco control bylaw in place, it makes sense to include e-cigarettes in the same locations,” Hasselback said.