Teenagers in Dundee have fallen prey to a growing vape obsession, defying efforts by schools to combat the problem. The nicotine-laced vapour, which is cheap, colourful, and “yummy” according to one teenager, has become a habit for many young people in the area. We spoke to three teens from Morgan Academy who have been vaping since their first year. Violet, one of the teens, admitted that she “can’t live without” her e-cigarette and goes through four or five vapes a week.
We also discovered that it is disturbingly easy for underage students to purchase disposable vapes in Dundee, even while wearing their school uniforms without providing ID. This is despite laws prohibiting the sale of vapes to anyone under the age of 18. Enlightened by these shocking revelations, we decided to investigate how Morgan Academy is tackling the vaping problem.
The Battle Against Vaping
Morgan Academy is at the forefront of the fight against teenage vaping. The school recently organized an assembly attended by 800 students, featuring campaigner Laura Young. Laura is advocating for a ban on disposable vapes across Scotland, and Dundee has publicly supported her call, becoming the first local authority to do so.
Concerns about the vape fixation among students were echoed by other Morgan senior pupils. Katya Walls, a school vice-captain, stated that some students have already planned to stock up on disposable vapes from Amazon in case of a ban. She also mentioned witnessing her peers using their vapes every five minutes, going through multiple devices each day.
Imaan Hussain, another sixth-year student, expressed her concern about the pervasive smell of vape smoke both inside and outside the school premises. She described the situation as scary and highlighted the constant exposure to vaping, which creates an unsettling environment for students.
Root Causes and Widespread Impact
The head teacher of Morgan Academy, Johnny Lothian, attributed the surge in vaping among youth to peer pressure and the aspiration to fit in. While acknowledging the challenge, he stressed the importance of interventions and education to help students comprehend the long-term financial, social, and health consequences of addiction.
The statistics released in May this year underline the gravity of the issue. The percentage of Scottish S4 students who regularly vape has risen from 3% to 10.1%, while the number of S2 students vaping regularly has increased from 2% to 4.3%. In comparison, the figure for regular smokers is 2.7% (1.6% for S2 and 4.3% for S4).
The Health Impact and Lack of Research
Although research suggests that vaping is less harmful than smoking, both activities involve the inhalation of nicotine. Professor Jacob George, a renowned cardiovascular medicine expert at Dundee University, highlighted the need for further research on the long-term effects of vaping, considering its relatively recent emergence. He expressed particular concern about teenagers, especially those who have never smoked before, jumping into the vaping trend.
Professor George emphasized that young people should understand that vaping is not completely harmless and that nothing should be inhaled other than fresh air. He also expressed concerns about the harmful additives and additional components present in tobacco, cigarettes, and vapes.
Industry Response and Government Intervention
Doug Mutter, director of vape giant VPZ, supports a ban on disposable vapes, which are popular among young people. However, he stressed the importance of proper implementation to prevent unintended consequences. VPZ ensures their staff is trained to challenge customers who appear to be under 25 years old, effectively preventing young people from purchasing vapes in their stores.
Dundee City Council has identified the sale of vapes to underage customers as a high priority. The Trading Standards service has issued 17 Fixed Penalty Notices in relation to underage sales this year alone. However, low fines for retailers selling vapes to minors have been partly blamed for the prevalence of this issue. The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has strongly condemned the sale of vapes to minors and urged the government to impose stricter penalties.
The fight against teenage vaping in Dundee’s Morgan Academy is an ongoing battle requiring vigilant monitoring, interventions, and education about the potential consequences. By raising awareness of the issue and working together with the government, educators, and industry, it is possible to mitigate the alarming trend of teenage vaping and protect the health and well-being of young people.