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Kate Hawkesby: I fear the vaping epidemic horse has bolted

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 May 2023, 8:19am
Photo / Unsplash
Photo / Unsplash

Kate Hawkesby: I fear the vaping epidemic horse has bolted

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 May 2023, 8:19am

The vaping epidemic in this country really grinds my gears, because it was all so avoidable.

We let the horse bolt, for years, and then sat on our hands until it well and truly took hold, until every school in the country, alongside thousands of parents, were all crying out for legislation and restrictions around it – until we took it seriously.

And then we set up endless committees, reviews, and inquiries around it – only to tell us what we already knew – it was a major problem.

I was reading yesterday about a kid who started vaping at 6. She’s now 12, she said she started vaping at 6 for goodness sake. Her older brother bought her vapes, easily done, the supply chain on the vape market is unencumbered by restrictions as far as kids are concerned, so it doesn’t surprise me that kids are supplying each other.

The problem with it – well there are several problems with it – but one of them is they think it’s cool. How do they think it’s cool?

Because they don’t understand the dangers attached to it, they’ve been told it’s better than smoking, so they think therefore it must be fine. Half of them don’t even have a clue there’s addictive nicotine in there. Well not until it’s too late anyway.

But it’s been marketed to kids on purpose – this whole – it’s a smoking cessation tool is a bit of a crock when you think  about the fact vaping companies are making flavours like bubblegum and strawberry.

I mean who’s that aiming at if it’s not young kids?

Ironically I know of kids who started vaping as young teens, thought after a while maybe it is bad for you, so they moved onto cigarettes. How does that work? How is that a thing? How do they even compute that?

You’re dealing problems like lack of awareness and understanding, but also the trouble with teens is they think they’re invincible and nothing will happen to them. Or worse, as one kid reportedly said in the story I read yesterday, “you only live once you’re gonna die anyways so you might as well.”

I mean that’s what you’re up against.

Once it took hold in the schools it got worse I reckon – schools that were proactive at trying to stamp it out early on were not well enough supported by legislation, so struggled to make any inroads.

Exasperated parents hit a brick wall when suppliers didn’t care who they sold to and kids formed black market supply chains anyway. But they’re getting addicted – and to something we don’t fully know all the consequences of yet either.

 It’s a big gamble kids are taking with their lungs and we let it go for too long. Turning that ship around now is going to be hard work.

All this comes as ASH wants to raise the vaping age from 18 to 21. I don’t think at this stage that will make a difference – once kids are addicted to something they’ll get hold of it either way.

And they're already vaping way younger than 18. Apparently no one in this country has the appetite to go as far as Australia and ban all non-prescription vapes. But look at where we're at now.

“According to the most recent New Zealand Health Survey, the number of New Zealanders aged 15 to 17 who vaped every day tripled in two years.. for young adults, aged 18 to 24, daily vaping increased from 5 per cent to 15 per cent,” according to one report.

So the ship’s sailed, and meritorious as it is to try to turn it around now, I can’t help thinking we’ve left it all a bit late.

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