Recently, there has been a concerning trend among teenagers in New Zealand. This trend has seen underage people, generally high-school age, taking up vaping.
A lot of you may dismiss this as not worrisome, knowing what you do about the relative safety of vapourisers, and the effects of vaping compared to smoking, however I encourage you to reconsider this stance.
The youth of New Zealand has typically had a low prevalence of e-cig use, that is, there is a comparatively low number of youths currently using e-cigs regularly in New Zealand than in other countries. That being said, we have a very high prevalence of non-smoking youths who have tried e-cig products. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Australian researchers on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO), it was found that 14% of non-smoking youths have experimented with e-cigs.
Out of all our youth (including smokers), around 20% (2014) have used e-cigs at least once. This is on the rise, when compared to the 7% recorded by a study in only two years prior in 2012.
These rates are not terribly alarming, and are also in line with other countries’ statistics.
The main concerning detail here, is the fact that this number is rising.
We must ask ourselves then, what is the draw? Why would teens pick up a vape and puff on it? And why would they keep it up?
I think we can easily assume that a lot of it begins with barefaced teen bravado; showing off to friends by blowing clouds on Daddy’s RDA, or stealing the pod vape for a sneaky puff in the park.
They may just want to feel grown-up, or to feel included with the ‘cool vapers’. But, ultimately, they don’t understand what it is be a vaper. It’s not, nor has it ever been, about being cool. It’s about not dying prematurely because the alternative is inhaling a concoction of poison all day every day. Understanding why youths vape is essential in understanding how you can be a part of preventing this becoming a nationwide problem.
Imagine this: Your 30-year-old friend who had never smoked a day in their life, comes to you and tells you they’d taken up vaping because it’s ‘cool’. I would probably ridicule them, but if you’re not that kind of person, you’d likely at least try to talk them out of it.
Most youths have never smoked, and thus need not have a smoking alternative.
So what can we do as a community, and a country, to prevent this transforming into a real epidemic?
Well, in most of these cases, I think you’ll find the youths in question are vaping nicotine-free e-juice, suggesting a superficial decision to begin vaping, one that is more concerned with keeping up with fads and what is ‘cool’, rather than an educated, meaningful decision made with harm reduction in mind.
In my opinion, it’s mainly about open discussions and freedom of knowledge. Answering their questions like ‘why do you vape?’ and ‘why is it bad for me’ without speaking vaguely or patronising, helps young people understand how adults feel about vaping. Talking about it this way also makes it clear that not vaping is in their best interests. It helps to define the act of vaping as a health decision, rather than a superficial one.
I think this is the best way we can educate our teens, to stress the reasons behind the decision to vape.
It’s a health decision, not a superficial one. Vaping is an R18 product, and these restrictions should not be regarded with flippancy, as they are imposed in the face of scientific and social evidence, which allows lawmakers to make sensible restrictions around these products, which we should all follow.