The number of teenagers vaping every day has almost doubled in the past year.
New data from the New Zealand Health Survey, released today, shows the daily vaping rate of those aged between 15 and 17 years old has increased from 8.3% in 2021/2022 to 15.4% in 2022/2023.
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ Chief Executive Ms Letitia Harding says doubling of daily vaping among teenagers is nothing short of a public health crisis that demands urgent attention.
“I am appalled and deeply concerned with these figures, and if addressing this isn’t in the Government’s 100-day plan, then it needs to be’.
“What we are witnessing is an epidemic that needs immediate attention to address such alarming statistics,” Ms Harding says.
“This data shows two important things – one; that our teenage vaping rates are still on the rise, and two; accessibility is a big issue because 15,16 and 17-year-olds are still getting their hands on vapes.”
“The previous Government was slow to enforce regulations, and has let retailers proliferate,” she says.
“Our Government cannot overlook the gravity of the situation, and needs to act now.”
The Foundation’s Māori Community Liaison, a dedicated youth vaping educator, Sharon Pihema has visited over 80 schools this year providing workshops on the harms of vaping to rangatahi.
“We need more education and more support, otherwise these statistics will get worse,” Ms Pihema says.
“When you hear of tamariki as young as 8 years old now addicted to vaping, it just shows how bad the epidemic is and how long it will stay if we don’t act now.”
Ms Harding says the Foundation requested support from Te Whatu Ora to fund another four much-needed Māori Community Liaison roles to cover the country, but was turned down.
“If our new Government are really as committed as they say they are to stamping out the vaping epidemic, then they should be backing and supporting us in our educator roles.”
The survey also shows that more than 1 in 4 of those aged 18-24 vape daily – six times as many as five years ago.
“It is tiring and sad to see these statistics, especially as we warned the Ministry of Health six years ago that this was our concern – a youth vaping crises – and here we are,” Ms Harding says.
“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall.”
“This entire issue could have been avoided if those making the decisions listened in the first place,” she says.
“Now, our country is in a position of chasing its tail, all the while our rangatahi are becoming addicted to something they should never have been able to get their hands on in the first place.”
Last month, the Foundation released the first New Zealand guidelines to support youth to quit vaping which can be viewed here.
If you would like to donate and support the Foundation to fund more Community Liaison roles, please donate here with the reference code – ‘novape’.