Vaping and schools

The reality is that more young people are trying vaping. Here’s what we know from research about young people and vaping in New Zealand:

  • Results from the New Zealand 2019 ASH Year 10 Snapshot survey (a nationally representative survey of Year 10 students, predominately aged 14 and 15 years) showed that 3% of students were daily vapers and 12% of students were current vapers (vaped at least monthly).  
  • Daily use of e-cigarettes/vapes among young people is rare and is largely confined to those who have smoked.
  • Although young people are experimenting with vaping, smoking rates among young people are continuing to drop in New Zealand. It is not possible to say from the current evidence that vaping is associated with initiation of smoking and normalisation of smoking behaviour.

Vaping and the law

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 commenced on 11 November 2020, amending the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and renaming it to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990.

From 11 November 2020 vaping is prohibited at all times in schools, kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo and early childhood centres (including their grounds and buildings). This means they are smokefree and vape free and school management/boards must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no person smokes or vapes in any part of the premises, whether inside or outside, at any time of day. From 11 May 2021, all schools, kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo, early childhood education facilities in addition to the existing requirement to display ‘no smoking’ notices/signage will be required to display ‘no vaping’ notices/signage. Read the Ministry of Health’s website for further information.

The new Act strikes a balance between ensuring vaping products are available for smokers who want to use them to reduce the harm to their health, and making sure these products aren’t marketed or sold to non-smokers, especially young people.

Read more on vaping law and policy at Vaping Facts.

What school leaders can do

Know the facts

The Vaping Facts website has easy to understand information about vaping, and the most up-to-date, relevant research about vaping and smoking in New Zealand. It is brought to you by the Ministry of Health and the Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency.

  • Know the facts, key messages, and myths surrounding vaping. The Vaping Facts website is the best place to go to for evidence-based information written for New Zealanders.
  • Start by finding out what you already know - or think you know - by taking the quiz
  • Watch this four minute video.

It talks about some facts in a light, natural way, and addresses some of the myths.

If you have a bit more time, this video is very good. New Zealand Professor Hayden McRobbie provides information on how vaping works, the long terms effects, and what the law says.

Read 'Is Youth Vaping a Problem in New Zealand?' - a post by some New Zealand public health experts that explores possible explanations for the sometimes contradictory reports and perceptions about youth vaping.

Read the New Zealand Health Education Association’s article on vaping in the December 2019 issue of Hauora Matters. Share the link with your teachers of health education.

Review your current school tobacco policy, school rules, or procedures

Because all schools, by law, must be Smokefree 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they do not need to have a smokefree policy. From 11 November 2020 the existing prohibition on smoking at schools, kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo, early childhood education facilities and care centres is extended to include vaping.

No smoking, no vaping signage can be displayed, however is not mandatory until 6 months after the act commences – so from 11 May 2021 these notices/signs must be displayed.

Develop staff understanding

Ensure the staff are aware of the key messages:

  • The best thing you can do for your health is be smokefree and vape free.
  • Vaping is not for children or young people.
  • Vaping can help some people quit smoking.
  • Vaping is not harmless but it is much less harmful than smoking.
  • Vaping is not for non-smokers.

Build your team’s knowledge about vaping - run a staff information session.

  • Start by having the staff complete the Vaping Facts quiz (copy the questions as a handout so that the staff can go through and record the questions they got right or wrong – don’t give them the explanations yet). This will determine their baseline knowledge.
  • Show this four minute video. It talks about some facts in a light natural way, and addresses some of the myths.
  • Ask the staff to have a look through the website (either on their own or in small groups). Doing it in a staff information session means that staff get to see and read it there and then (as opposed to in their own time, when many may not have the time). The facts on this page are key messages for educators and parents.
  • Have the staff go through the quiz again, this time, using the online version, so that the answers and explanation come up. Hopefully by the time they have watched the videos and had discussions they will get all the answers correct.
  • Encourage your staff to watch Professor Hayden McRobbie’s video. It provides clear explanations on a number of the facts that a range of things that teachers might need to know – particularly before talking to students about vaping.

Support parents understanding

  • Share the school’s tobacco and vaping policy, school rules, and procedures with parents and whānau.
  • Use your school’s social media, website, or newsletters to promote the Vaping Facts website as the go-to website for relevant and up-to-date information, when communicating to parents about vaping.
  • Acknowledge that many parents and whānau may be vaping to quit smoking, and that is to be supported/encouraged.
  • Promote the services that parents can contact to find support for their child who want to stop vaping. Find your local stop smoking service or contact Quitline.
  • Encourage parents to talk to their children about vaping. The How to talk to your teen page has some useful tips about finding the right moment and suggestions about what to ask and how to respond. Share the link in your school’s newsletter, website, and social media sites.

Support all students

  • While some students will have tried vaping (a third of Year 10 students reported having tried an e-cigarette (even a single puff or vape), fewer than 3% of Year 10 students reported using e-cigarettes daily.
  • Include vaping just as you would include other substances in teaching and learning programmes focused on reducing harm from the use of alcohol and/or other drugs. The New Zealand Health Education Association’s article on vaping in the December 2019 issue of Hauora Matters has some ideas for teaching and learning activities.
  • Use the teaching and learning activities from Staying Smokefree to promote self-reliance, understand and deal with peer pressure, and addiction. Just swap out ‘tobacco’ and ‘cigarettes’ for ‘vaping’, where appropriate.
  • Provide support for those who are wanting to quit vaping, or who are vaping to quit smoking. This could be through inviting a quit service to run clinic in the school, a member of staff running a support group at lunch time, or promoting local quit services.
  • Ensure the students are aware of the school’s policy, school rules, and procedures regarding tobacco and vaping.

Support your school-based health services

  • Invite the school-based health service staff to your staff information session on vaping.
  • Ensure they are familiar with the content on the Vaping Facts website.
  • Ensure the staff are aware of the school’s policy, school rules, and procedures regarding vaping.
  • Involve them in discussions and decisions about what school-based quit services, groups and support the school could offer students.