“We have an epidemic of vaping in our schools,” said Joy McGregor, HPSD chair and Slave Lake trustee, at the November 14 trustee meeting.
To combat vaping, the school division has built cut out so that the hand-washing part of the washroom is visible from the hallway.
“It’s stopping people from using the washrooms,” added McGregor.
Vapes can only legally be sold to people 18 and older, but kids get them.
McGregor reached out to AHS Tobacco and Vaping Enforcement, which has held two undercover youth-buying investigations in Slave Lake. The first time all stores failed. The second time only one did. In High Prairie, stores did better.
“These kids who are 13 look 13,” said McGregor.
Kids also get vapes from their parents, she added. They can be nicotine free, or include nicotine, flavours, or cannabis products.
A former smoker, McGregor thinks that flavoured cigarettes when she was a teen would have added even more social pressure to smoke. Kids are experiencing a lot of pressure to vape, she adds. Plus the nicotine buzz would be addictive.
“We need to be lobbying (the government) that they are not flavoured,” said McGregor.
“We need more education and lobbying,” agreed Trustee Tammy Henkel. “This might be one of the most important things we do.”
It took decades for the number of smokers to decrease, she added. This was based on a lot of research on long-term health dangers, which doesn’t exist yet for vaping.
Holy Family Catholic Regional School Division in the Peace Country added vaping detectors to all schools in 2023.
Administration reached out to Holy Family and found they spent $90,000 to add vaping detectors to their washrooms.
HPSD Superindendent Murray Marran said Holy Family is a small division, so this would be similar to HPSD just doing the secondary schools.
The original plan was to have the vape detectors only in secondary schools, but the board was interested in all schools.
McGregor is aware of students at EG Wahlstrom School (Grade 4 to 6) in Slave Lake being caught with vapes.
The board heard that the only person caught by Holy Family in an elementary school so far was a parent on a community day.
Only one company in Canada (out of Edmonton) sells and maintains these detectors. Each costs $1,800 to install and $167 per year. The company needs to test each location.
Council passed a motion to order the testing to be done, if possible before the December 19 meeting, if it costs less than $5,000.
Council wasn’t ready to approve the purchase of the detectors, until it learns when they would need to be replaced.