From the Principal
E-cigarettes and ‘vaping’ – a concerning trend amongst young people.
The School has received a small trickle of reports of Tintern students ‘vaping’ (the consumption of e-cigarettes), which is very concerning. There is also an anecdotal report of students selling ‘vaping’ paraphernalia to other students, possibly at school, and I want to express my very significant concern on both these issues, together with our zero-tolerance of them.
As an older person who has watched the declining use of tobacco in Australia with great satisfaction, the rise of ‘vaping’, is both mystifying and concerning. So much ground has been made in improving community health in this regard, both through legislation and laws, and through changes in community attitudes. The rising numbers of (almost all young) e-cigarette users risks the future health or our young people, and as an older person, I’m aware that I was not sufficiently educated about this trend until recently. The information below is to assist other adults who may be in the same place as I was, to understand the incidence, risks, and legal factors around ‘vaping’.
Vaping is considered by many young people to be harmless and a good and healthier alternative to cigarette smoking. As you will read below, these are both fallacies. Almost as concerning is that ‘vaping’ is also re-normalising smoking as a habit with young people at a time when so much progress has been made in this area in our country.
From a school rules perspective, I want to make it clear that we will not tolerate either ‘vaping’ at, to or from school, or at any time in School uniform. The sale from student to student of ‘vaping’ or other smoking materials is absolutely unacceptable, and also illegal. Students may be liable for a range of sanctions, up to and including suspension from school, if they possess, smoke, consume, or deal in tobacco or e-cigarettes at school, during any school activities, or in school uniform outside school. In the case of the same for any prohibited and/or illegal drugs, sanctions may include up to expulsion.
The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, particularly among high school students, and, given that the use of these devices is a relatively new phenomenon, we felt it important to provide students and parents with some relevant background information. As this is a new phenomenon, long-term health effects are not yet available, but early signs are not at all positive for users.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapour that is inhaled. The fluid usually contains propylene glycol, glycerol, nicotine and added flavouring(s). The devices are designed to deliver the aerosol directly to the lungs. Some resemble conventional cigarettes, while more recently developed devices look like everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks. The appeal of these flavoured e-cigarettes to adolescents has led to their rapid uptake around the world.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia is concerned that e-cigarettes have ‘renormalised’ smoking. A worryingly recent study has also found that e-cigarette users were three times more likely than non-e-cigarette users to subsequently become tobacco smokers.
While the damaging impact of smoking tobacco is well known, the short and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are still being researched.
SAFETY OF E-CIGARETTES
Although the compositions of the e-cigarette liquids vary, they all contain a range of different solvents and flavouring agents which have the potential to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory diseases. When overheated, the solvents propylene glycol and glycerine can produce dangerous levels of the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
The vapour can also contain:
- Heavy metals such as aluminium, arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and tin, all of which cause adverse health effects.
- Particulates at levels that have the potential to cause adverse health effects for both the user and for bystanders. The World Health Organisation has warned that exposure to any level of particulate matter may be harmful and that levels of exposure should be minimised.
- Flavourings normally approved for use in food production e.g., cherry, cinnamon, vanilla and popcorn flavours which, when inhaled directly into the lungs, can be toxic and have been demonstrated to have a range of different deleterious effects.
The NHMRC has found that users of e-cigarettes typically experience a low rate of adverse effects in the short-term, with mouth and throat irritation the most reported symptoms. The most common symptoms reported by those passively exposed to e-cigarettes included respiratory difficulties, eye irritation, headache, nausea and sore throat or throat irritation. However, more serious adverse events have also been reported, with over 200 incidents in the US and UK alone of e-cigarettes overheating, catching fire or exploding, leading to disfigurement and life-threatening injury. The rising popularity of e-cigarette use internationally has also corresponded with an increasing number of reported nicotine poisonings due to skin exposure to or ingestion of e-liquids.
One of the newest and most popular vaping products is the JUUL, which resembles a USB memory stick. This device now accounts for three quarters of the market share in the United States and every JUUL product contains a large dose of nicotine. Many lawmakers and public health officials in the US have criticised the company’s marketing practices, believing them to have targeted teens through social media influencers and their promotion of fruity pod flavours, which are now only sold online.
VAPING AND THE LAW IN VICTORIA
Detailed information about this can be found in the following link: https://www.quit.org.au/resources/policy-advocacy/policy/e-cigarettes/
However, the key elements of this for schools are as follows:
- As of October 2016, the sale of e-cigarettes or e-cigarette accessories to a person under the age of 18 is illegal.
- E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal for use by adults.
- Note: E-cigarettes have also often been found to be labelled incorrectly. Despite claims to the contrary, many do contain nicotine. Tests conducted by NSW Health in 2013 showed that 70 percent of the samples contained high levels of nicotine, even though the label did not state nicotine as an ingredient.
SCHOOL TV SPECIAL REPORT: Vaping & E-Cigarettes
This Special Report highlights the facts around vaping and e-cigarettes and what are the potential risks. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this Special Report, and as always, we welcome your feedback.
If you do have any concerns about the wellbeing of your child, please contact the school for further information or seek medical or professional help.
Here is the link to your special report https://tintern.vic.schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-vaping-au
It is important that family conversations are had with students of appropriate age and stage. Your children will have seen, or will see ‘vaping’ in public places, and like most young people, will at least be curious. I hope this will assist in your family’s ability to have informed conversation around this concerning trend amongst young people.
factis non verbis