Stricter laws needed to deter teen vaping, health board hears
By Jenn Watt
More regulations need to be in place around vaping in order to curb numbers of teenage users, a tobacco control officer with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says.
During a meeting of the board of health on Oct. 17, Lorne Jordan explained what he called “pretty much an epidemic” of vaping and pointed to advertising as well as flavoured vape pods as part of the problem.
“We need to have the Smoke Free Ontario Act amended to get rid of the advertising components that the industry is allowed to use,” he said.
Wherever it’s illegal to smoke tobacco, it’s illegal to vape, but unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke or a pungent scent, making it much easier for students to hide what they’re doing.
“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, they’ll vape and they’ll exhale into their arm [sleeve] because it’s a very inconspicuous device. They wear it around their neck on a chain. There’s no scent. There’s no smoke. There’s no real obvious signs that people are vaping. That’s become quite an issue for us,” he said.
And when students are caught, Jordan said many of them aren’t deterred by the fines.
“Just in the space of a few months last year I was up to about 40 or so charges, my colleague was the same way. And that was with only two or three out of five high schools reporting.”
Although it’s a $305 fine for smoking or vaping on school property, he said that some teenagers have been able to argue undue financial hardship and have the fine reduced.
Nicotine levels in e-cigarettes can be quite high, 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,” he said.
He pointed out that the long-term health effects of vaping aren’t yet known, but that he personally was aware of one or two hospitalizations of teens in the Northumberland area.
OPP Sgt. Christopher Henshall suggested at the meeting that the board of health lobby the government to create minimum mandatory fines, so that those charged won’t be able to argue for a lesser payment.
Jordan also advocated for bans on advertising and flavours.
“With the vaping industry there’s all kinds of different flavours out there that basically are appealing, very appealing,” he said, naming chocolate, cherry and something called “unicorn puke.”
A resolution calling on the province to tighten restrictions on vaping will be coming to a future meeting for a vote.
Drug strategy marks end of Trillium grant funding
Representatives of the Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy made a formal presentation at the board of health meeting on Thursday marking the end of a three-year Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation worth $285,000.
Kim Dolan from PARN, Catherine MacDonald from the health unit, and drug strategy co-ordinator Megan Deyman presented a ceremonial plaque and briefly discussed the work done by the strategy, which brought together organizations in the region working on drug-related issues.
The strategy operates with a four-pillar approach: harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment, and justice and enforcement. The grant applicants were HKPR Health Unit, PARN, Four Counties Addiction Services Team and the City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service. Fifty-two organizations became members of the strategy during the three-year period.
Kim Dolan, executive director of PARN, on left, presents Megan Deyman, co-ordinator of the Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy with a plaque recognizing the work done over the last three years, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Deyman gave a presentation to the HKPR Health Unit board of health on Oct. 17. /JENN WATT Staff
Deyman said that the strategy led workshops, seminars and educational campaigns and supported existing work including harm reduction programs at the health unit and through PARN as well as naloxone distribution. Work is ongoing on an opioid response plan and task force for the three counties.
“I think we’re at a good place coming off the three-year grant. We’ve laid some important and foundational components in each of the three counties,” Deyman said, citing better connections between service providers and communities, opportunities for marginalized people to take leadership roles and reducing harms through programming and enhancing education.
New laws, more calls
Restrictions around where people can smoke tobacco and cannabis have created extra work for the tobacco control officers at the health unit.
The Smoke Free Ontario Act bans smoking 20 metres from schools and nine metres from restaurants and bars.
Lorne Jordan told the board of health that in both cases, it has been logistically difficult for those responsible to keep people outside of the buffer zone. At schools, student smokers are leaving the property and often ending up smoking outside of private residences.
Dysart et al Mayor and board of health member Andrea Roberts said that was an issue in Haliburton, where smokers from the high school are now standing at the corner of Gelert Road and County Road 21. That sidewalk runs along the property line of a private residence.
“Everybody driving in and out of town sees them and there’s garbage and there’s litter,” Roberts said.
Jordan said the health unit had that problem with every school.
He said the legalization of recreational marijuana hasn’t led to extra calls of people smoking where they shouldn’t, but he has heard from people in apartments and condos who aren’t happy the person in the unit next to them is smoking.
This was already an issue with tobacco smoke and has expanded to include cannabis.
However, the Smoke Free Ontario Act does not govern what people do in their private dwellings.
“Common areas within those buildings, yes, the law applies, hallways, elevators, laundry rooms, parking garages, that kind of thing, yes those are banned areas, but unit to unit is not.”