Youth vaping reduction campaign
By Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand
21 November 2022
Phase one of a three phase campaign designed to get Aotearoa’s youth reflecting on their vaping has started. Protect your Breath aims to provoke conversations, and encourage people to consider the impact of vaping on themselves and their communities.
No one will be surprised to hear that youth vaping has more than tripled between 2019 and 2021. Over the same period, daily smoking rates have decreased significantly.
Why are more young people vaping, what role does vaping play in their lives, school communities, and homes and where should efforts to reduce vaping-related harm begin? To answer these questions Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand commissioned creative agency Curative to find out. Insights were gathered by a group of young people (called the Hā Collective), interviews with experts were conducted (noting a lack of research on young people’s attitudes towards vaping, and to help understand more about the role vaping plays in the lives of rangatahi), and an anonymous school survey was conducted by research agency Cojo.
Completed earlier this year, the survey asked students about their environment – what was causing them stress, how they coped with that stress and who they turned to for advice or influence. The survey also asked them about their vaping habits, attitudes towards vaping and how they felt the media, advertisers and parents had handled talking to them about the issue.
The expert interviews, school survey, and youth-led insight gathering processes surfaced six critical insights:
- Vaping serves as a coping mechanism for some young people
For many young people, vaping is a response to – and an attempt to cope with – the very real pressures of the worlds they live in. Many young people are using vaping as a mental health regulator, or a means by which to ‘get through the day’. Some young people indicated that vaping seems like a preferable, less harmful option to other coping mechanism or forms of risk-taking they could be engaging in, like using alcohol or other drugs or self-harming
- Reactions to vaping can impact the way young people see themselves and their future
Young people indicated there is a great deal of moral judgement about whether a young person chooses to vape or not. Schools are struggling to respond to the issue of student vaping, and many are taking a punitive approach – offering little in the way of restorative practice and critical thinking around risk taking behaviours.
- Vapes are easily accessible and often shared among friends
Vapes are often passed around in social environments, and even those who identify as ‘non-vapers’ are likely to ‘have a hit’ – saying that sometimes, it’s just easier to join in.
4. Vaping could be ‘just a phase’ for some young people
Our insight gathering suggests that some young people will simply vape to be part of the ‘scene’ but are unlikely to keep it up or form long-term habits.
5. Young people want to make informed decisions
Young people are well aware that the marketing strategies and accessibility of vapes are intentional ploys to get them to become purchasers and users of vaping products. On the other hand, rangatahi are also distrustful of ‘quit vape’ campaigns and conversations – viewing them as superficial scaremongering, delivered by ‘adults with an agenda’.
Rangatahi told us they want to access judgement free information and conversations that can support their self-determination and decision making.
6. Rangatahi don’t like the idea of non-vapers starting to vape
Young people who are already vaping are protective of those who are important to them, and many said they didn’t want their peers, younger siblings, or cousins to start vaping. Rangatahi told us that they didn’t want themselves or their loved ones to become victims to the rhetoric that vapers are ‘bad people’. More information on these insights and the link to download the full report can be found at on the protect your breath website.