Understanding the risks of vaping
Dear Parents and Guardians
Vaping is the use of an electronic cigarette (e-cig) or vaporizer (vape) to deliver nicotine, marijuana and/or other chemicals to the body. Vape contains liquid chemicals (e-juice), along with a mechanism to heat those chemicals in a very small device that comes in many styles. Vapes heat the chemicals to create an aerosol form of those chemicals that get delivered into the body and often into the environment. Vaped chemicals enter the lungs, bloodstream and brain within seconds. The user can often have a feeling of light-headedness, dizziness or experience a rush or high, which may set off cravings for more.
Purchasing or possessing a vape under 18 years of age is supposed to be illegal, but in New Zealand, in it’s poorly legislated position over vapes, there is little regulation or control. Many of our students are buying vapes online and just ticking the box on the order form online agreeing that they are 18 years of age (even if they are not). There is no real proof of age required. Australia, in contrast, does not allow vape shops – you can only buy online, it is illegal to vape in public/out on the street/in a vehicle where children are present.
Most of the students who have been found vaping at school have been using “juice” which contains nicotine salt – this product is addictive and gives you the same calming rush that a normal cigarette would provide. The use of cigarettes by teens has been progressively declining over the past 40 years and is now at its lowest level. But unfortunately, nicotine use by teens via vapes is currently on an exponential rise.
Given that this is a new product, there is little definitive medical research on the long term health risks. Early indications are that it may have a potential impact on asthma and lung issues and it is uncertain of the impact of unwittingly introducing artificial chemicals into the body. Some of our students have informed us when questioned that they are concerned about the addictive nature of using vapes and have asked for assistance in helping them with this issue.
The CEO of one of the largest suppliers of vapes, “Juul” (i.e. 40% of the market), Kevin Burns, in an article published on the CNBC website recently said he would tell parents whose children are addicted to Juul e-cigarettes, “I’m sorry that their child’s using the product … it’s not intended for them. I hope there is nothing that we did that made it appealing for them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them and have empathy for them, in terms of the challenges that they are going through.” The US Food and Drug Administration has declared vaping an “epidemic”, citing a survey that 21% of high school students in the USA had vaped last year (i.e. an estimated 3 million teenagers). Unbelievably, recently, the NZ government encouraged smokers of cigarettes to switch to e-cigarettes to help them to quit smoking – before any definite scientific research has been done on the health ramifications of the product.
It is important that you talk to your son/daughter about the potential impact of vaping on their future health/sporting performance. For us as a school, we will continue to treat vaping at school in the same way as we deal with students who use cigarettes. Students found with vaping devices will have them confiscated and there will be a significant disciplinary consequence. Students who vape at school, because of the health risk they put themselves in and others who passively breathe in the product, will in the first instance have a Headmaster’s suspension from school and offered assistance if they feel that they have an addiction. Repeated use of vapes will probably result in a suspension to the Waikato Anglican College Trust Board Disciplinary Subcommittee and place their membership of the school community in jeopardy. I have spoken twice in assemblies about the school’s stance on vaping and the potential health risks. It would be great if, over the next few days, you could reinforce this message. Teenagers are naturally inquisitive and subject to peer pressure. It is important that if they are going to experiment with this product that they clearly understand that the school is certainly not a place to do so. Such an action will have a significant response, which could potentially jeopardise their educational opportunities at St Paul’s Collegiate School.
Thank you for your support with this increasingly significant issue.