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  • Our Words Matter


Opinion article written by a mother of a teenage boy

We have chosen not to identify the author of this article as she has requested her son to remain anonymous. This article has been published with her son's permission as he would like his peers to understand the dangers surrounding vaping.

As a mother of a teenage boy who recently got caught vaping at school, getting to the bottom of whether vaping is safe, or not, I would say is a matter of extreme urgency. In America, there have been 5 deaths and there are now over 450 cases of vaping related lung illness being investigated in America.

I personally have a number of issues with vaping and, with facts like this, I’m fairly sure that I am not alone in my thinking.

Vaping was originally seen as an alternative to help smokers kick their habit, but over the years it has become so much more than that. The safety messages surrounding e-cigarettes are mixed and the problem we have is the lack of knowledge about whether it is actually harmful to our health.

What is concerning is the rapid increase in the number of teenagers and young people who are choosing to vape.

There is absolutely no reason vaping products should be available in tasty flavours such as watermelon, gummy lemon cake and vanilla except to entice young people who are most at risk.

Last week I received a phone call from my son’s school saying he, along with a large number of his classmates, was caught vaping at school. As a mother, maybe I should’ve seen the signs. His demeanour in the weeks before he got caught had changed, he became angry at the smallest thing, his moods was swinging all over the place, he had trouble sleeping and was starting to be really tired during the day. I put it down to him being a ‘teenage boy’.

Sharing my news with a few close friends, their response tended to be that it was a ‘right of passage’ and compared it to our own generation who were well-known for sneaking a cigarette behind the school bike sheds. But the rapid rise in popularity of these devices amongst teenagers and young people is scary. Not only are they harmful, but many carry more nicotine in them than regular cigarettes, something teenagers are unlikely to be aware of.

As my son said to me “mum, the good news is there was no nicotine in it”. A fact not backed up by his teacher.

While it is illegal in New Zealand to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, it’s not illegal for our kids to use them and unlike cigarettes, the advertising of vaping devices is currently unregulated. Legislation is due to be tabled to ban or restrict marketing of e-cigarettes.

Vaping is a complex societal problem, the stories out of the US are scary and it is evident that we need to rigorously scrutinise how New Zealand controls the use of these devices. Meanwhile, our kids are being tempted to try, buy, sell and become addicted.

With the rapid increase in vaping amongst teenagers, the danger lies in them moving to the next level which could be smoking or drugs.

So, are we in fact facing one of the most serious adolescent public health crisis in decades?


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