GREY-BRUCE – A presentation by Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health, on the Tobacco Enforcement Diversion Program, provided an overview of the health unit’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act school offence reporting program.

The GBHU’s tobacco program is working with school nurses to improve the reporting pathway, once a student has been observed to be vaping on school property or school buses.

Arra said the statistics across Canada are “alarming,” specifically regarding vaping.

The report he presented stated program staff “are responding to an increase of in-school vaping reports at elementary schools.” Most of the in-school vaping took place in the washroom.

Survey data from 2021-22 indicates 15.3 per cent of Ontario students in grades 7-12 reported vaping at least once during a 30-day period.

Since January of this year, the GBHU tobacco program has responded to approximately 50 reports of students smoking or vaping on school property, Arra told board members at the June 23 meeting, with 36 per cent involving students 14 years of age or younger.

Board member Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, asked what the specific concern is regarding vaping.

Arra noted that while we have data on tobacco smoking that goes back 50 or 60 years, there’s no long-term data on vaping. What there is, is “not reassuring.” He noted tobacco use used to be common, even in hospitals, but now it’s not. At the same time, there has been an increase in the social acceptability of vaping among youth.

The main concern, he said, is vaping products, with the different flavours, are being marketed to youth. Along with nicotine, there are added chemicals “we don’t know about” in the products. They’re increasingly marketed online.

Arra noted a recent report from Johns Hopkins indicated that the only similarity in the “assault on lung tissue” from vaping is from mustard gas, a First World War chemical weapon.

Dr. Rim Zayed added that there is some evidence from the United Kingdom, where studies on vaping have been done for some time, that indicated where a specific amount of nicotine is the only chemical involved, vaping may be helpful in stopping smoking. At the same time, vaping for first-time users is a gateway, not just for tobacco use but for other drugs including opiates.

She further noted there are studies being done on second-hand vaping impacts (on people near those who are vaping) and third-hand (where the chemicals are on furniture, etc.).

Communication needed

“Appreciated but concerning” is how Zayed described news that a mobile van would be providing mental health and addiction services in Bruce County.

In her update to the board on opioids, she made a brief mention of the van, noting, “We (GBHU) were not aware of it… we don’t know how it connects with local services.”

Board member Chris Peabody, warden of Bruce County, said he’d been at the press conference when the announcement was made through the office of Michael Tibollo, associate minister of health and addictions, about the van. He said the van will serve Perth, Huron and Bruce, and will be based in Goderich. It’s run by a non-profit, Medavie, and will be staffed by a mental health nurse and social worker.

Otherwise, he has no knowledge of specifics regarding the project.

Peabody told the board that concerns were raised during the press conference in Clinton (June 13) about the “lack of input,” particularly from CMHA. There’s a meeting scheduled with hospital groups.

Arra commented that “a press conference is not the time to plan services.” He agreed with Zayed that the news about the van is “appreciated but concerning.”

Peabody said he will contact Lisa Thompson’s office about the concerns expressed during the meeting.

There was discussion about the board sending a letter to the office of the health minister.

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 30, 2023 at 07:40

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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