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School Notes: Vaping ads and a November break

GSACRD and St. Albert Public make joint call for action on vaping, while St. Albert Public ponders a November break
0510 Vapingeps
“Vaping is the new smoking,” said Rhonda Nixon, assistant superintendent of learning services for GSACRD. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert’s public and Catholic school boards are making a joint call for the provincial government to ban ads that promote vaping to youths.

Greater St. Albert Catholic board trustees approved the text of a joint GSACRD/St. Albert Public motion on vaping Sept. 30 that is set to go to a vote at this fall’s annual general meeting of the Alberta School Boards Association. St. Albert Public will vote on the text this fall. (The votes are something of a formality as both boards have already agreed to do the joint motion, GSACRD board chair Joe Becigneul said.)

The joint motion, if approved by the province’s 61 school boards, would call on the province’s health and education ministers to conduct and share research on the health impacts of vaping, and call on all levels of government to ban the advertisement, promotion and accessibility of vaping products to youth.

The joint motion started earlier this year when GSACRD and St. Albert Public independently put forward motions on vaping to the Zone 2/3 ASBA meeting, said Rhonda Nixon, assistant superintendent of learning services for GSACRD. The ASBA asked the two boards to work on a combined motion, which Nixon, Becigneul and St. Albert Public trustee Cheryl Dumont hashed out last August.

“Vaping is the new smoking,” Nixon said, and GSACRD had seen a rise in school suspensions related to vaping in recent months.

A University of Waterloo study released last June found vaping rates amongst Canadians aged 16 to 19 rose 74 per cent between 2017 and 2018 (from 8.4 per cent to 14.6), and cigarette smoking amongst youths had increased for the first time since 2008, she continued. Nixon noted that around the time she, Becigneul and Dumont worked on this motion, U.S. media were reporting some 153 cases of severe lung illnesses, most of which involved youths who vaped.

Becigneul said vaping was at “epidemic” levels amongst youths, who could see ads for it at any corner store.

“The product itself is flavoured to be sweet and candy-like,” he said, and delivered via devices that are easily disguised as USB sticks or key fobs.

“It’s earmarked clearly at kids, and it’s very addictive.”

Vaping is a widespread and growing problem in Alberta schools, and we’re learning more about its health implications all the time, Dumont said. The province needs to get that research done and share its results with parents, staff and students.

The GSACRD/St. Albert Public motion goes before the ASBA at its Nov. 18-19 meeting. Dumont noted the motion might merge with a similar one from Red Deer Public that’s also up for a vote at that meeting.

Week off in November?

St. Albert Public wants to know if its students should get a weeklong break in November.

St. Albert Public put out a question on the board’s Thoughtexchange board last week asking families to weigh in on adding a weeklong break in November to the district calendar.

The break is an idea that’s been floating around the district for a while, said St. Albert Public superintendent Krimsen Sumners. The Elk Island and Parkland school divisions have a November break in their calendars.

“Sometimes the only time families can get away is prior to that Christmas break,” she said, and students might be tired after three months in school.

The idea was to have this break coincide with the two days students already have off in November around Remembrance Day, Sumners said. The district would then have to make up for the three lost instructional days, which could mean adding days to the start or end of the school year or changing the length of the Christmas break.

“We’re just trying to hear all sides of the argument,” Sumners said, adding the board would drop the idea if people aren’t interested in it. If they are, the break would kick in as early as next year.

The survey runs until Oct. 15 and can be found at

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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