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University study: Vaping ‘just as likely to lead to smoking’

A just-released study from Otago University suggests that vaping may be just as likely to lead people to become addicted to smoking as it is to help people quit tobacco.

The study said recent data indicates New Zealand has the second highest rates globally of ever using [15.5 per cent] or currently using [7.8 per cent] nicotine vaping products.

The Times-Age has recently covered the concerning number of youth addicted to vaping in the region, with the size of the problem illustrated by Masterton Intermediate principal Russel Thompson reporting that 14 of his students had been stood down during a two-month period for vaping at school.

The government has announced tighter regulations for specialist vape retailers [SVRs] but not everyone is convinced they go far enough, with a number of local educators suggesting the changes are too little, too late.

Life Education teacher Laura Campbell said that, sadly, the situation today isn’t a total surprise to her.

“I’ve been a teacher since 2011,” Campbell said.

“At a school I was working at in 2019 there were literally kids walking down the hallway vaping.

“At a boarding school I moved to, we had students during the pandemic getting vapes couriered to school or to their private homes.”

Earlier this year, Campbell said she found her six-year-old daughter collecting “vape rubbish” at Masterton’s Kids Own playground.

“There’s a lot of youth and teens who hang out there in the evenings and vaping I guess,” she said.

“Pretty depressing in an area that’s supposed to be smoke-free.”

More and more schools are contacting Campbell – who runs the Healthy Harold education programme – and asking for student sessions on vaping.

“It’s really sad that I’m having schools reach out and asking for a focus on vaping,” said Campbell.

“It doesn’t seem to matter what decile the school is, it’s just happening everywhere.”

Campbell said the pending tighter regulations are an improvement, but believes the issue should have been picked up before the significant spread of SVRs and vapes accessible to youth.

“It’s all very well, but it should have been done years ago,” she said.

The number of 15 to 17-year-olds who vape every day had quadrupled in three years according to the Ministry of Health, from two per cent in 2018-19 to eight per cent in 2021-22.

It was reported on Thursday that the government has given $1.4 million towards a large trial assessing quitting methods for vapers, as part of $50 million dollars going towards research on pressing health issues.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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