First phase of three-year project to reduce vape-related harm among young people launched

While smoking rates are coming down, the percentage of young people vaping daily has more than tripled in the past three years.

The first phase of a three-year project to reduce vape-related harm and drill down to why young people take up the habit was launched on Tuesday. It was co-designed by rangatahi to appeal to their peers.

For an audience normally distrustful of scare tactics, this fresh approach got 100 of their peers, aged 16 to 20, to interview their friends and whānau on their vaping habits.

"It's so cool to see community champions, such as all of the rangatahi, that have stood up and actually said, 'We want to be a part of this kaupapa, we want to support our peers and we want to support our whānau'," said Selah Hart, CEO at Hāpai Te Hauora.

The study, funded by Te Whatu Ora, found that more than half of daily vapers turned to the habit as a coping mechanism.

"I feel like the stress and anxiety was a symptom of having been exposed to so much nicotine over such a short amount of time," said Lauryn McCormick.

The 18-year-old vapes. But although she cares about the negative health effects, she's hooked.

"Even though you're so aware of it, it's hard to just stop."

The ease of buying products was another factor fuelling their addiction.

"They're so accessible because they're so cheap and vape shops are everywhere, so they're really not hard to get a hold of. A lot of places don't do ID checks as well," McCormick said.

The survey found that what does deter vapers is smoking in front of younger friends and tamariki, with 41 percent not wanting their teachers to find out.

Smoke-free laws prohibit vaping in schools and kura, but health advocates said resorting to punishment is not the answer.

"I don't think that's the right approach that we should be taking, because a loss of education or access to education has life-long consequences," Hart said.

So whether you're having a hoon or a shmang, this campaign speaks their language and is encouraging young people to kick the vape habit.