02/28/2014 11:58 EST | Updated 04/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Vancouver School Board poised to ban electronic cigarettes

The Vancouver School Board is recommending that students and teachers be banned from using electronic cigarettes on school property.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes and e-cigs, are battery-operated devices that are being marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. They contain an atomizer that vapourizes a flavoured liquid solution to create the illusion of smoke.

Health Canada prohibits electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine, and some health advocates warn the flavoured liquid solution could contain harmful chemicals. However, they are easy to find in some Lower Mainland stores and on the Internet. Electronic cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal and readily available in Canada. 

The school board wants to ban them — just like it bans traditional cigarettes — out of concern for students' health and safety.

"The health impact of repeatedly inhaling e‐cigarette chemicals is unknown, and students or staff exposed to e‐cigarette vapour may be at risk of asthma attacks or other lung irritations," reads a school board memo.

"Flavours such as chocolate, candy and fruit appeal to children and youth, making e‐cigarettes a potential gateway to smoking. E‐cigarettes also undermine the efforts of youth who are trying to quit, by renormalizing smoking in the school environment."

School board chair Patti Bacchus supports the ban, and hopes it will provide an opportunity to teach parents and youth about the dangers of smoking.

"Certainly I've heard myself through my own kids that a lot of students think they're completely safe, and harm free, and that they could use them any where really. So it's a matter of something new that's popped up. It's an opportunity for us to do a little bit of education — let parents know that there are concerns — for health officials," said Bacchus. 

School board trustees will vote on the ban in two weeks.