Principal says school and parents are struggling to stop vaping 'epidemic'

  • 06/07/2021

By D'Angelo Martin for The Hui

A Whanganui Mum is at her wits end over her teenagers' vaping.

Paula Johnston thought the habit was initially harmless but has seen a big change in the behaviour of her three children.

"There were signs of addiction right from the start including moods they get, the angry moods when they don't have one," she says.

"I'm really concerned. The disrespect that I've seen from my kids, which they were never disrespectful."

Her three teens are all under the age of eighteen so shouldn't be able to buy vapes, but easily manage to obtain them. They pay for them with money made at after-school jobs.

Daughter Ocean Johnston says she was influenced to start vaping by her friends.

"What started me off was because my friends were vaping and I had a turn and I liked the cloud that came out of my mouth. So I just carried on vaping," she says.

The teens have all been stood down from school multiple times for vaping on school grounds.

Their principal at Whanganui City College, Peter Kaua, says vaping has become an epidemic. He says stand-downs are clearly not working and it's putting a huge load on staff.

"It's just this extra mahi that we don't really need at this time, extra mahi for the staff to do," he says.

Johnston agrees, saying children will carry on vaping anyway.

"Getting stood down for three days, they're going to go out and carry on vaping. What? They're not learning anything. They're actually missing out on learning."

Tobacco group British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) says vaping products have been strictly R18 since the update to the Smokefree Environments & Regulated Products Act in November 2020.

"In the recent Government consultations on both the legislation, and the vaping regulations, we strongly submitted that stringent age-verification be made mandatory across all online retailers of vaping products, as an additional barrier to youth access, over and above the R18 on delivery service provided by most courier companies," a BATNZ spokesperson says.

"We have implemented this robust online age-verification at checkout on our own e-commerce platform and encourage all retailers both online and in-store to implement the strongest youth access prevention measures available."

They add that BATNZ also supports stronger enforcement of penalties for those caught selling or supplying vaping products to minors, such as on-the-spot fines, as is the case for other age-restricted items.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.

Principal says school and parents are struggling to stop vaping 'epidemic'