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B.C. survey of school kids finds marked separation between views on smoking, vaping

Teens vaping. (via File photo)

Fewer kids in B.C. are smoking, but new data from the BC Adolescent Health Survey shows a disconnect between vaping and youth involvement in sports.

A report released Tuesday (Dec. 15) by B.C.'s McCreary Centre Society reveals a marked separation between views on smoking and vaping.

Youth were more likely to have vaped in the past month (27 per cent) than to have ever tried smoking tobacco (19 per cent).

The comprehensive survey has been completed every five years since 1992 by students aged 12 to 19 in school districts across B.C. In 2018, more than 38,000 Grade 7-12 students completed the survey. 

"What really stood out for me in the report, and echoes what young people have been telling us anecdotally, is that many view vaping very differently to how they view smoking," says McCreary executive director Annie Smith.

"One example that came out in the report was around sports participation. We know that young people who are actively involved in sports are not going to smoke cigarettes. They are aware that doing so can negatively affect athletic performance, but we have not done a good job yet of getting that same message out there around vaping."

Among the report's findings:

  • In 2018, 19 per cent of B.C. students aged 12-19 had ever smoked tobacco. This was a decrease from previous years. For example, 26 per cent had smoked in 2008 and 34 per cent in 2003.
  • Youth in the Interior were the most likely to have vaped.
  • In the month before taking the survey, six per cent of youth had both vaped and smoked cigarettes.
  • 21 per cent had vaped and not smoked cigarettes.
  • One per cent had smoked cigarettes and not vaped.
  • Among youth who smoked tobacco in the past month, around half had been smoking for at least two years, including 19 per cent who had started smoking at least four years earlier.

The survey results found youths were less likely to smoke and/or vape when they felt connected to their family, school, and community through meaningful activities.