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New app to combat the troubling trend of vaping in Simcoe County schools

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Vaping among young people has rapidly increased across the nation, becoming a concern for local school boards.

"I was an elementary school principal for 20 years, I had experience of vaping as young as grade five," said Kevin Kuiack, assistant superintendent of Safe and Accepting Schools at Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

To help students facing addiction, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and Simcoe County District School Board will join four other boards piloting new programming.

The pilot, known as "Quash," will give students access to an app."The app basically guides them through wanting to quit," said Kuiack.

School boards began training staff on how to roll out quash last week.

A component of the province's mandate banning school vaping was announced last month. That came alongside restrictions on when students can use their cell phones, which raises questions about how students can be expected to access the app.

"There's a ban in the classroom, but only during instructional time. So during the rest of the time, if they are in school or if the students are at home or wherever they are, they are still able to access the app," said Member of Provincial Parliament Billy Pang.

"Canada now has some of the highest youth vaping rates in the world,' said Jessica Buckley, the CEO of the Lung Health Foundation.

Based on the most recent Canadian tobacco and nicotine survey of Canadian teens who vaped in the last month, 69 per cent have never smoked.

The Lung Health Foundation developed Quash three years ago to tackle this worsening health crisis. Its CEO states that the app works in two ways: through the app itself and educational support provided by parents and school administrators.

"So it's a series of webinars, and they can also become an adult facilitator and take a program on our website that allows them to facilitate the program," said Buckley.

The Simcoe County District School Board declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board says it will launch the app in its schools in June, which will then be extended into the fall.

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