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Vaping Risks Creating A New Generation Of Nicotine Addicts

A leading public health agency says the growing number of teenage vapers is a real problem, and the government needs to act now to prevent the creation of a new generation of nicotine addicts.

Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive Selah Hart says data from a recent study of adolescent health and wellbeing- showing 80 percent of teenagers who vape at least once a month had never smoked suggested many rangatahi did not understand the damage vaping could do.

Hart says while vaping could be a useful tool for people who currently smoke trying to quit, and was less damaging to health than smoking tobacco, that did not mean it was safe.

"For people struggling with an addiction to nicotine, vaping can be just one way for them to wean themselves off cigarettes and ultimately become smokefree," Hart said.

"However, it is important to remember that many of the manufacturers and distributors of vape products are not motivated by public health considerations," said Hart.

"They are big businesses - in many cases the same big businesses that have for years pushed the sale of tobacco products. Like all businesses, they want repeat custom and they want new customers."

Hart said that while even smokers now recognise the terrible health risks associated with tobacco use, many people don’t see vaping as a potential problem, due to the reduced harm associated for people who smoke tobacco currently.

"Our rangatahi in particular need better information so they can make better choices, and we eagerly await further leadership from the government and the Ministry of Health in getting the appropriate information out into the community."

Hart said regulations tightening the sale and supply of vape products, which were currently being rolled out, were a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done.

"We know the overwhelming majority of teenage vapers are using products that contain nicotine. But many of them are totally unaware of that, let alone just how addictive nicotine is," said Hart.

Seventeen year old Skye Hohaia of West Auckland says many of her friends are accidental vape addicts.

"It was just something to try because our mates at school were doing it - I didn’t even know vapes contained nicotine," Hohaia said.

"But once you’re addicted it’s hard to stop. It will take more than getting a few detentions to break the habit."

-The Youth19 paper on smoking and vaping, entitled "New Zealand Youth19 survey: Vaping has wider appeal than smoking in secondary school students, and most use nicotine-containing e-cigarettes" can be read in full on the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health website.

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