Teen vaping sets off alarm in schools; Education and enforcement set to clear the air

Edmonton, Alberta – The Edmonton Police Service School Resource Officer Unit is partnering with the University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing to bring attention to the growing issue of youth vaping and flavoured nicotine use in schools.

“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in vaping among teens in junior high and high school, even pre-teens in elementary school are trying out their older siblings’ vapes,” says Const. Joshua Maeda, the EPS School Resource Officer for M.E. LaZerte High School. “It’s very disruptive to the school environment, I’ve seen numerous students get caught and suspended for vaping in school, and this year I’ve seized close to 50 vaping devices with vape juice totalling over $1,500.”

While Edmonton schools report anecdotal evidence that student vaping is on the rise, a new study published in the British Medical Journal in June 2019 found a 74 per cent increase in vaping among youth aged 16 to 19 in Canada from 2017 to 2018. Health Canada reports 23 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 have tried an electronic cigarette.

Teen vaping sets off alarm
Teen vaping sets off alarm

This alarming adolescent trend has also been observed by University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing students entering the health care field, who feel more can be done to educate teens and their parents of the potential health risks and vulnerability to addiction.

Nancy Barnes, Registered Nurse and Faculty Lecturer with the U of A Faculty of Nursing, highlights these risks, “The main reason teens start to vape is because of the flavoured nicotine, which not only tastes good, but gives them a head rush that feels good. But the effects of nicotine and vaping are toxic to a developing brain and body, so we have to take action before the nicotine addiction kicks in.”


Experts say that electronic cigarette devices deliver higher doses of nicotine than traditional cigarettes, and one vaping pod may contain the same amount of nicotine as a package of cigarettes. The addition of sweet flavouring to vape juice masks nicotine’s naturally unpleasant taste and increases the appeal of vaping over traditional smoking.

Most underage users report purchasing their vaping products illegally from vape shops or convenience stores after seeing vaping advertising at the locations, which contravenes the Alberta Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act. Under the Act, it is illegal to sell to minors, to sell any flavoured product containing nicotine, and to display or advertise any tobacco or nicotine products.

To reduce the prevalence of youth vaping, EPS officers and U of A Faculty of Nursing students are launching an education and enforcement campaign.

This summer, EPS officers will be visiting vape retailers to speak to owners about the problem and check for compliance to regulations. Shops breaching the law will be issued warning letters, and subsequently fined if they do not comply within the given time frame.

Education and enforcement set to clear the air
Education and enforcement set to clear the air

Later in the fall, U of A Nursing students will be working with Edmonton schools to educate teens on the health risks and consequences of vaping through a series of presentations and distribution of resource materials.

“Health promotion, and illness and injury prevention, are the foundation of professional nursing practice,” says Nancy Barnes. “As future health care providers, this is a great opportunity for our nursing students to use their expertise and work collaboratively with police on a common problem facing Edmonton’s youth.”

Const. Maeda adds, “Kids are vulnerable because of peer pressure and lack of knowledge, but if we get the right information out to the community, we can keep these kids on the right path and avoid future addictions.”

For more information on the risks and consequences of vaping, please visit Health Canada.

MRU #: 19R073

Edmonton Police Service
“Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve”

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