It comes in flavours like strawberry, watermelon, berry fluff and banana split, and the liquid nicotine used in it is described as juice, pods or e-liquid. With thousands of online shops offering attractively packaged options, there are few barriers for young people to access e-cigarettes, and children as young as 13 are trying vaping.
Vaping is not cool for Mt Aspiring pupils Michael Gealogo (17), Isobel Smith (16) and Siena Shotwell (16), but they have seen an increase in e-cigarettes (vaping) over the past two years, not only in their age group but also in pupils as young as 13.
Siena said it was ” surprising” to see younger pupils vaping.
“Because when we think of ourselves at that age, it’s definitely not how we were.”
Isobel said she thought the amount of vaping was worse within year 9 pupils than pupils in their final year at college.
“Definitely you walk into a bathroom where you know there are younger classes around and the smell, it just hits you.”
Michael said there were conflicting messages about the effects of vaping.
“It’s confusing about whether it is bad or not, because some sites will say it is good and some will say it is bad,” he said.
Isobel said vaping had “blown up” in the last year or two, and the number of people who had tried vaping could be as high as 80%.
“I’d say by the time you leave school you couldn’t have avoided being around vaping.”
She knew of some young people who had panic attacks if they couldn’t find their vape.
Siena said she didn’t understand why anyone would try it but some young people saw vaping as “harmless”.
One common behaviour was an e-cigarette being passed around a group, Siena said.
“It is super, super casual”.
She thought the lack of information was even used in advertising.
“It’s like, if we don’t know it is not dangerous for us, then it is good.”
Access to e-cigarettes was available online, even if you were underage.
“It’s pretty easy to click the over 18′ button”, she said.
Mt Aspiring College principal Wayne Bosley said the school had noticed vaping in the past 12 months.
At a board level and school level they put it in the same category as smoking in terms of policy.
It would be advantageous to have some national guidance on vaping “which I know they are trying to do but as yet it hasn’t arrived”, he said.
Vaping was harder to detect at times than smoking.
“We haven’t got a big smoking issue but I think those that have vaped at school have been quite brazen about it.
“We just don’t accept it in any shape or form.”