The François-Villon college in Paris hosted an awareness workshop on the risks of vaping the new disposable electronic cigarette. Particularly popular in playgrounds, it is not without danger.
In the middle of the playground, under the courtyard, a table on which several leaflets stand side by side: “Screening”, “First times”, “Screen = Danger”, “Tobacco: I would like so much that he.she stops”. A dozen curious college students rush there: some take, embarrassed, a few copies, while the speakers address them a well-rehearsed speech. “Do you know why we are here?” Nod negative.
It was in the François-Villon college, classified REP + (priority education network), in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, that a meeting around the “puff” took place this Tuesday morning. It was led by Jean-Michel Gras, tobacco specialist and member of the Ile-de-France Committee against respiratory diseases, and Adji Dramé, speaker for city health workshops.
These last are “a tool of city policy to stimulate prevention and health promotion actions in working-class neighborhoods, explains Anne-Claire Boux, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of working-class neighborhoods, present at the meeting. Our objective is to identify and respond to health needs: the approach is to “reach out” to vulnerable populations. Here we were alerted by the college to the large number of students who use puffs.
“What’s a puff?” asks Adji Dramé. “A disposable electronic cigarette, without nicotine”, responds tit for tat Mehdi (1), in sixth. For 8 to 12 euros, these latest generation vapes contain around 600 puffs of fruity flavors – the equivalent of two packs of classic cigarettes. While their sale is prohibited to minors, “College students are however the main consumers”, explains the tobacco specialist. And if there are many disposable cigarettes without nicotine, this is not the case for the majority of them, which contain between 0.9% and 2%.
“Initially, the electronic cigarette had to help smokers quit smokingit was a lesser evil, explains the doctor. Today, young people are starting to smoke with the puff. The risk is that adolescents who have never touched a cigarette develop addictions, that they get used to inhaling smoke, but also to the gesture.
A single watchword therefore: “not to start”, a formula repeated by the speakers, who use all their diplomacy to make college students understand the risks of puff: “Nicotine or not, inhaled smoke is extremely dangerous, warns Adji Dramé. It contains a large number of chemicals and potentially toxic products.
Teens in the spotlight
“The puff explicitly targets this audience of young people, even very young people”, worries Jean-Michel Gras. The fault of well-thought-out marketing and increased promotion on social networks. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram… All the means are good to attract hyperconnected middle school students. In the yard, few people have a smartphone that does not protrude from their pocket. And then, the flavors of cotton candy, red fruits, marshmallow… “regressive, reminiscent of those of confectionery”, says Vincent Germain, safety prevention assistant. Not to mention the disposable device, which is easier to hide from parents. “It’s a little not seen, not taken”, laughs Leo, “puffeur” in fifth.
“I have been using one for several months, confides, Gladys, a sixth. I had tried cigarettes once but I hadn’t liked it, I had coughed a lot. There, it tastes good and then all my girlfriends have it.” The reasons of this success ? “The playful, recreational side, the fashion effect, and also less vigilance on the part of parents”, regrets Vincent Germain.
Available at Gifi
Like all electronic cigarettes, these puffs are strictly prohibited for minors. However, his followers do not hide getting it very easily. “Just cross the street: the two tobacconists opposite the college sell them, we are never asked our age”, says Chloé, in fourth. “I tried to buy one once but couldn’t, so I contacted an account on Instagram,” details one of his comrades. “A sixth-grade schoolgirl even told me that she could get some from Gifi”, Vincent Germain is saddened.
This ease of obtaining puffs contributes to the impression that its use is not harmful. “If that were the case, we couldn’t buy it so easily,” abounds Chloe. A phenomenon that led Vincent Germain to report tobacco shops to the police several weeks ago. No news since.
But if the puff is presented by some as a “toy”, teenagers know, however, that it is not an object quite like the others. Behind the courtyard, a group of young people take a few puffs before quickly hiding it in their pocket. “We are not fooled, says Vincent Germain to me. We see them with their puff in the corridors, in the toilets or at the exit. And these are young people who came to talk to us about it because they were worried. And for good reason.
(1) The first names have been changed.