With students vaping in bathrooms, in classes or on the school bus, e-cigarettes have become a significant issue at Marlborough Girls’ College.
Principal Mary-Jeanne Lynch said the school has had a number of fire evacuations caused by students vaping in the bathrooms and setting off the smoke alarms.
“This is particularly concerning as the whole school has to evacuate to the tennis courts, the school day is disrupted for no good reason, and our fantastic volunteer fire brigade have to stop their jobs and come to school to check if our buildings are on fire.
“Students also vape on the school buses, which is incredibly distressing for the other students on the bus and the bus drivers.”
* Call for anti-vaping school campaign to stem rise in teens vaping
* Vaping problem in schools at ‘almost epidemic proportions’
* Vaping student who collapsed at school ‘got the fright of his life’
Lynch said students vaping in the bathrooms were putting other students off using the facilities.
“Aside from this being against our school rules, as we are smoke and vape-free, this behaviour is remarkably thoughtless and selfish.
“Everyone should be able to access the school bathrooms without having to put up with clouds of vape,” Lynch said.
Where does this claim come from, and does it stack up?
Lynch said she would like to see more public information about the harm of unregulated vape products, including the level of addiction to nicotine that was increasing among young people.
“I understand that vaping may be really helpful for adults who are trying to stop smoking. However, my concern is the new and increasing group of young students who are becoming addicted to vaping and believe that it is harmless.
“I would also like to see the sale of vape products regulated more carefully, including restricting the type and frequency of advertising, especially the targeting of young people, and the number of vape shops in a community.”
Marlborough Boys’ College principal John Kendal said the school worked alongside students and whānau in terms of onsite vaping issues.
“We endeavour to build a school culture where being smoke and vape-free is seen as the norm and is socially acceptable.
“We, like most other secondary schools, are aware that vaping is perceived as a healthier option to smoking by teenagers.
“When we do have issues around vaping we remind our students that we are a vape-free school.”
Picton’s Queen Charlotte College principal Betty Whyte said vaping was an “ongoing issue”.
“They can put it [e-cigarettes] in their pocket or disguise it very easily, it is not like a hot burning substance, so it is very difficult to track and follow.
“We are just trying to work through with education mainly, try and make them aware that they are not as safe as children believe they are.
“It is just disappointing. It is not something we want to spend our time doing but, obviously, we are required to keep them [students] safe and it is very time-consuming,” Whyte said.
Queen Charlotte College reached out to Smokefree Nelson-Marlborough Public Health, which works alongside schools to raise awareness of vaping.
Smokefree practitioner Cynthia de Joux said it was important for students to understand the marketing around cigarettes.
“We show them how it works, how they are luring them, what they look at, how it taps in on the basic senses of what they see, what they smell and what they taste. It is really clever.
“It is the same as any new device, anything new and fancy that turns into something that can potentially be a problem, and nobody had any background or any education in it.”
De Joux said it was also important to debunk some myths about e-cigarettes.
“There is this preconceived idea that it is way better to take up vaping than to take up smoking.
“It still has its effects, and we are not entirely sure what all of them are and we may never find out until another few more years down the track.
“Once the impact starts to take hold, we are aware of the fact of how addictive nicotine is,” de Joux said.
There were three vape stores in the Blenheim town centre – Shosha, Hot Boxx and Vape2Go – and one in Picton.
“We had no vape shops in this [region] for the past eight years and in the past 18 months we had four.
“As soon as the legislation started to come into place, these things popped up everywhere and nobody questioned it and nobody challenged it, and it is all directed at young purchasing,” de Joux said.
In 2020, a new law banned sales of vapes to under-18s, and banned advertising by vape/e-cigarette retailers, manufactures and importers, bringing it closer in line with tobacco law.
Retailer fines for selling tobacco products to minors could reach up to $10,000.
Nearly 85% of New Zealanders are smoke-free, according to Ministry of Health figures. The New Zealand Government has a goal that by 2025 fewer than 5% of New Zealanders will be smokers.
For more information visit the Ministry of Health vaping website and resources are available for schools on the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board website.