School boards are taking aim at teen vaping. Pixabay

School boards look to ‘Quash’ student vaping

By 
  • May 30, 2024

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and St. Clair Catholic District School Board are among six Ontario secondary school systems joining forces with the Lung Health Foundation to combat student vaping.

In advance of World No Tobacco Day May 31, or during June, participating schools are promoting Quash, a mobile app designed to arouse the type of behavioural changes that will compel vaping or nicotine addiction cessation.

Chris Preece, the manager of mental health and wellbeing services for St. Clair board, said the app itself and the local health professionals helping to implement this initiative have an opportunity to shatter misconceptions.

“Since the (introduction) of vaping to our children and youth, there has been little education provided to them in schools, communities, provincially and nationally,” wrote Preece. “As a result, many children/youth may have a preconceived notion that vaping is safe and does not harm one’s health. In fact, in Canada, 69 per cent of youth (ages 15-19) who vape have never smoked tobacco yet are three times more likely to smoke in the future.”

Kevin Kuiack, the assistant superintendent of Safe and Accepting Schools for the Simcoe Muskoka board, shared that approximately 150 students have received suspensions for vaping during both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. Kuiack said chaplains, guidance counsellors and other school administrators were encouraged to complete the 45-minute Quash training module to help interested students navigate the app. The overarching mission of the board’s anti-vaping efforts is to think pastorally instead of punitively.

“The big thing for us is the pastoral care we want to approaching vaping with,” said Kuiack. “We have to be aware that many students who are vaping are at least somewhat addicted at this point. We can go through punitive measures, but we are trying to really approach this through a pastoral lens. We want to use supportive conversational mechanisms. The app is one way to do it, but it is also that one-on-one conversation and understanding the struggles that students might be addressing.”

According to the 2022 Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey, 14 per cent of youth aged 15-19 and 20 per cent of young adults aged 20-24 indicated they vaped within the past 30 days. These figures are higher than the rate of adults at least 25 years old (four per cent) who reported vaping and the national average weighted from all 12,133 participants (six per cent).

This survey also revealed that stress reduction motivated 31 per cent of the 15-19 cohort and 33 per cent of the 20-24 grouping to vape. However, vaping’s effectiveness as a coping mechanism is not well regarded by the scientific community. A 2020 report published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, titled Electronic cigarette use and mental health: A Canadian population-based study, indicated “mood and anxiety disorders, suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms and negatively perceived mental health are all associated with e-cigarette use.”

Inspired by the holistic behavioural change capacities of wellness apps like Noom and Headspace, the Lung Health Foundation designed Quash that “empowers users to identify and overcome triggers, rewards progress towards quitting and ultimately helps them regain control over addictive vaping habits, prioritizing their health and well-being.”

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