The Lung Foundation Australia recently said that although tobacco smoking has fallen out of favour amongst Australian youth in recent years, there has been a rise in the popular alternative of ‘vaping’. It is indeed a long time since we, as teachers, remember dealing with incidences of students smoking at school, down the hill behind the bushes, which is a very positive observation. However, as with any adolescent risk-taking, we would be naïve to think that some Scotch Oakburn students were not experimenting with vaping and e-cigarettes.
It is every educational institution’s responsibility to ensure that students and parents are provided with current research and information that protects our young people from potential harm. That is the aim of this news item.
So, what is vaping? Vaping is the act of smoking e-cigarettes, or ‘vapes’, which are lithium battery-powered hand-held devices. Vapes use cartridges filled with liquids, or ‘juice’, which typically contain nicotine, artificial flavourings and various chemicals. The liquid is heated into an aerosol, or vapour, and inhaled into the user’s lungs. The range of vape and e-cigarette choices have evolved rapidly in recent years, with many models and liquid flavours. Vapes can include nicotine but there are vapes that are branded as non-nicotine. It is important to note that non-nicotine systems can be just as harmful due to the toxins they use. Though safe to ingest, these toxins may be very unsafe to inhale. These products lack proper testing, and often still contain nicotine even if they claim to be free of it.
They generally come in three main categories: minis, closed pods, and refillable. Types of vapes include:
Minis – also known as ‘cigalikes’, Cuvides, BIDI Sticks or Stif. These are made to look like a normal cigarette and are disposable.
Refillable systems – also known as Mods, Tanks or APVs. These are newer models with more settings and longer battery life. The vape juice is re-filled into the device’s tank.
Closed pod e-cigs – these look like minis but aren’t disposable. The liquid ‘pod’ is replaced with another when it runs out.
Other brands – there are also some closed pod brands such as JUUL which can be charged in a USB slot.
Vaping activities are attractive to young people because of the novelty nature of these devices, the influence of a direct family member or friend who vapes and the incorrect perception that vaping is relatively harmless compared to regular cigarettes. The accessibility and affordability also makes vapes attractive. Though restricted in Australia, vape equipment can easily be obtained through online channels, and remains a cheaper option than cigarettes. Sophisticated marketing through social media and online channels has been successful in glamourising vaping.
Vaping is unsafe and dangerous. We know that vaping in the short-term has been associated with nausea, vomiting, mouth and airway irritation, chest pain and heart palpitations. There is a common misconception that vaping is merely harmless water vapour — in fact, it’s an aerosol made up of tiny toxic particles. While this aerosol might have fewer chemical additives than combustible tobacco products, it still contains and emits many harmful compounds. These include:
Formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible lung damage.
Propylene glycol, which is toxic to human cells.
Nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the still-developing adolescent brain, particularly in areas that control attention, learning, mood and behavioural control.
Additionally, vaping is associated with the future uptake of cigarette smoking and can be considered a ‘gateway’ to further risk and health complications. Also, the manufacturing of these devices is not regulated and in many instances they have caused permanent disfigurement after exploding or catching fire.
Please engage regularly in conversations with your children about the dangers of vaping and never assume that your child has not tried it, or is not being tempted to try it by friends. Here are some ideas about talking to young people about this issue:
Be patient, avoid criticism and be open and honest when talking to your child about vaping.
There should be an emphasis on easy discussion and mutual receptivity in a safe, caring and understanding space.
Stick with the facts, steer clear of overreaction and keep the emotion out of it.
Assist your children to make their own informed decisions around the issue.
Emphasise the way in which the tobacco industry covertly manipulates young people through glossy imagery and savvy marketing.
If nicotine addiction is involved, work with your children in an open and honest way by building rapport to start getting them the help they need.
Above all, always deal with the facts, make sure to underline the health issues and demonstrate authentic care in a non-judgmental setting.
The College’s new wellbeing resource, SchoolTV has a special report on vaping with an accompanying video which would be worth watching with your children, here is the link:
For more information or support in relation to this issue you can contact your medical practitioner or one of the following services: Lung Foundation Australia 1800 654 301 • Quitline 13 78 48 Poisons Information Line 13 11 26 • Alcohol and Drug Foundation 1300 85 85 84