Worries over teen vaping rise in New…


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A New Plymouth school is appealing to the community for help with what it says is a growing vaping problem.

Photo: Unsplash

Highlands Intermediate has disciplined 17 students so far this year for vaping on school grounds – which has been legally prohibited since last year.

Principal Mark Luff was so worried about an increase in the number of students caught vaping or vaping equipment that he sent out a general alert to parents.

“We’re not seeing huge numbers, but it’s just a consistent flow of it and we’re realistic we’re not the only school in New Zealand experiencing this.

“We know when we talk to colleagues it’s happening all around the country and it’s something we are struggling to control if that makes any sense.”

He said vaping at school, which had a roll of about 700, had become more common over the past three years and the problem was not going away.

“Our concern is that is becoming a norm, a normalised thing and it’s okay. It’s just an okay thing for kids to do. Kids see it just as an okay thing to do.”

Luff, who hoped to raise awareness of the issue through the email, thought the children were most likely getting the vapes from older siblings or friends rather than neighbourhood dairies.

The country’s most recent health survey shows use of vaping products amongst 15-17 year olds has more than tripled in three years.

Otago University public health professor Janet Hoek is an award-winning researcher on the subject.

She was not surprised 11- and 12-year-olds were getting their hands on vapes.

“They’re sold in dairies so they are going to have high exposure. The vaping products are positioned immediately behind the counter, they’re highly visible in these outlets.

“They’ve got highly attractive packaging, they’ve got intriguing names for the e-liquids, so I mean, it’s not at all surprising that young people are having their interest in these products piqued.”

She did not think a product that was supposed to help people quit smoking should be sold in convenience stores.

“It’s just making them available from places where people are never going to get that specialist expertise and advice they need to try and make the switch and at the same time it’s making these products freely available to young people.

“So, I think the current arrangements they do a disservice to people who smoke and to young people who’ve never smoked and they need to change.”

Hoek was worried vapes were creating another generation of nicotine addicts.

And these New Plymouth people agree.

“An issue I have is that there is a vape store directly across the road from Highlands,” said Holly.

Andrew has a mate struggling with vaping in his family.

“A colleague at working his daughter was doing it in her bedroom at night, so concealing her use.”

Rocky had unsuccessfully tried to use vaping to stop smoking and didn’t think intermediate school children should be using vapes.

“They just like the big puffs, you know, but yeah it’s not cool, man.”

A woman who preferred not to be named said blame lay close to home.

“It’s a parenting issue isn’t it? They should stop them from doing it.”

A builder, who had also used vaping to attempt to stop smoking, thought it was being targeted at a whole new demographic.

“You shouldn’t be bringing out something for the kids, you know, something that is already lolly flavoured.

“It definitely targeted at them they’re going to be hooked and they’ll be vaping forever.”

But the Dairy and Business Owners group said there appears to be a moral panic over vaping.

In a statement, it said its members did not sell to children and it wanted dairies to be allowed to actively promote vapes to smokers when they came in to buy cigarettes.

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