Vaping within the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge area has become an “epidemic” according to the health unit’s tobacco control officer.

In a presentation to the unit’s board of health Oct. 17, control officer Lorne Jordan said vaping has become “pretty much an epidemic” in schools and he has doled out 40 charges in recent months. He said provincial laws need to change to address it.

“We’re seeing it not only on school property but inside schools. Not just inside schools but inside classrooms. Students are vaping whenever the teacher turns their back,” Jordan said. “It’s a very inconspicuous device.”

Vaping is disallowed in the same places smoking is in Ontario, including enclosed public spaces. But Jordan said laying charges, including an approximately $300 fine, is not having the same impact on vaping as it has historically with cigarettes.

“Normally, I charge a kid in high school, everyone in that high school hears about that charge within an hour and we get really good compliance for six months,” Jordan said. “Not seen that same effect with vaping.”

Education campaigns and warnings about the short-term health risks and uncertain long-term risks have also proved ineffective so far, Jordan said. He added he thinks the solution is with provincial legislation to curtail advertising and flavoured vaping, used by a tobacco company-controlled vaping industry.

“We really need stricter laws,” Jordan said. “This is like a godsend for the tobacco industry because they can get a whole new generation of young people addicted to nicotine through vaping.”

Another issue Jordan identified was courts reducing fines, with people subjected to them pleading financial hardship.

Minden Hills OPP Const. Christopher Henshall suggested the province be lobbied to impose bigger minimum fines for vaping in disallowed spaces.

“There are multiple avenues you can pursue to protect kids,” Henshall said. “Everyone in the high school age thinks you’re invincible.”

Board member and Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts proposed the health unit draft a motion for a future board meeting to ask the provincial government to toughen vaping legislation.

Vaping is making news due to recent cases of severe pulmonary illnesses and death associated with the use of vaping products in the United States.

“It is important for Canadians to know that vaping does have health risks and that the potential short and long-term effects of vaping remain unknown. Non-smokers, people who are pregnant and young people should not vape,” Health Canada said in a September information release.

Jordan said he is aware of one or two students in Northumberland County who have been hospitalized due to vaping.  

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