Nelson schools have been reporting a worrying trend of students increasingly vaping. Photo: Donn Gabriel Baleva.

Student vaping on the up as schools welcome law change

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Nelson secondary school principals have welcomed the Government’s new vaping law, saying it’s a “step in the right direction” to help counteract what is a worryingly growing trend for local teens.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Vaping Amendment Bill was passed on 5 August and will come into effect this November.

It will see a ban on the sale of vaping products to those under the age of 18. It will also prohibit advertising and limit the sale of all flavours to specialist stores, with shops like dairies, supermarkets and petrol stations restricted to mint, menthol and tobacco.

Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson welcomes the changes, saying he has taken a “very hard line” against anyone vaping on school grounds.

“Several students have been stood down from school for vaping this year. The incidents I am aware of have been across all year levels, which is a concern.”

He says they have seen a rise from virtually no instances of vaping a couple of years ago to seeing it as a growing concern over the past 18 months.

“Personally, I believe that the risks of vaping, although widely reported to be less than traditional smoking, are still not fully understood. We welcome any move to restrict these products and particularly the flavours and advertising clearly targeted at young people.”

Nelson College headmaster Richard Dykes also supports the new regulations but says there is still work to do.

“It’s a step in the right direction – it mainly closes the gap and has certainly placed logical restrictions, but it doesn’t go as far as I’d have liked.”

He says they are working with multiple students who are vaping, with some reaching out to the NMDHB’s health promotion service for information.

“We patrol the school grounds – it’s like going back to the 1980s, chasing smokers across the school yard.”

Nelson College for Girls’ principal Cathy Ewing says that while vaping “is not a particular problem” for her school, they will be holding an information evening in October for parents and caregivers to be better informed about the risks involved.

“There has been an excellent response by parents and caregivers who are interested in attending.”

Gayle Hay, Smokefree Health Promoter at Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service, who runs these information sessions says they encourage parents to talk and connect with their kids regularly.

“They also offer the opportunity to plan alongside other parents on how to have these conversations and hear their common experiences.”

She says she is happy to see the new laws will come into effect soon.

“The bill presents some first great steps taken to support both those wanting to become smoke-free and protect young people from starting to vape. There is more work still to be done to de-normalise smoking and vaping. Our young people copy what they see, and vaping should always only be seen as a quit-smoking tool.”

The new law will also ban vaping in cars with children, enable all retailers to display products instore and allow speciality stores to continue offering loyalty points and discounts.

It also provides a framework for regulations to be set where people are allowed to vape in or outside premises and introduces a safety system which will allow the Ministry of Health to recall products, suspend them and issue warnings.