Smoking out vaping spots doesn’t do enough for teens

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Teenagers aren’t exactly known for their restraint and self-control. Years of illicit activities hidden from parents make it no surprise vaping has taken teens by storm. That’s why restricting their privacy isn’t likely to slow down their nicotine consumption any time soon.

St. Joseph High School in Ottawa recently announced their commitment to smoke out vape users on school property by removing the doors to bathrooms where teens congregate to vape e-cigarettes and vaporizing pens.

Citing the examples of airport and mall bathrooms without doors, St. Joseph’s hopes that by diminishing teen privacy, they’ll protect non-vaping teens from peer pressure and second-hand exposure. If a student is caught vaping, they can be written up through by-laws and fined $305.

While this isn’t a blatant invasion of privacy, and its motivation is honest, the school’s decision isn’t likely to stop teens from inhaling fruit-flavoured nicotine across its property.

Teenagers have a reputation for purposeful ignorance, mostly due to curiosity and rebellion. From underage drinking to smoking, cigarette package warnings and public service announcements have never stopped young people from doing what they want. While St. Joseph offers other progressive measures to quash vaping, such as counselling offenders, teens aren’t likely to respond by quitting.

If St. Joseph simply hopes to mitigate vaping on campus, removing bathroom doors is an understandable effort. But if they really want to protect it, their administration should address the root of the issue. An arbitrary one-time fine or an hour in a counsellor’s office won’t stop teens from reaching for their devices the moment they get home.

Vaping is an epidemic across North America. Its long-term effects aren’t known, but that doesn’t stop teens from hopping on the bandwagon. That’s why it’s incumbent on all institutional levels in charge of youths’ wellbeing—from governments to school boards—to make a stronger effort to stop it.

As vaping is a nationwide problem, the federal government should commit itself to better research on the health impacts of vaping. Similar to the decline of teen cigarette smoking decades ago, only unbiased information has the power to deter future generations.

Within schoolboards, students should be better educated. Schools are responsible for teaching students to live healthily and apply their learning to practical, real-life situations. Current and accurate information about nicotine’s addictive nature should be dispersed in the context of vaping in health classes.

Canada is already behind the curve when it comes to protecting young people from a public health challenge nobody was prepared for. Schools limiting popular vaping spots and offering counselling is well-intentioned. However, research and education are far more productive in persuading teens to come to their own conclusions regarding their personal health.

We can only hope our government and our schoolboards feel the same way.

Journal Editorial Board

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