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EIT | Te Pūkenga researcher examines the impact of vaping on school students in Hawke’s Bay

April 23, 2023

EIT | Te Pūkenga researcher, Associate Professor Anita Jagroop-Dearing.

Research to address the epidemic of youth vaping among intermediate and high school students in Hawke’s Bay has been funded recently by Health Research Foundation Hawke’s Bay and EIT | Te Pūkenga.

EIT | Te Pūkenga researcher, Associate Professor Anita Jagroop-Dearing is a member of the Stop Adolescent Vaping E-Cigarettes (S.A.V.E.) group, which was formed in March 2020 as a multidisciplinary collective of Hawke’s Bay Professionals, which feeds into a wider Youth anti-Vaping National Network. Members include school youth leaders, school nurses and principals, police, public health and rangatahi advisors, educators and a Ministry of Education representative.

“We are all alarmed by the high levels of youth vaping, and the problem seems to be out of control with increased school absenteeism, inability to concentrate on school lessons due to nicotine addiction, respiratory and mental health problems. We are concerned about the creation of this new generation of nicotine-dependent youth who are also graduating to cigarette-smoking.”

Anita was also on a S.A.V.E working group that developed a written statement requesting amendments to the Smokefree Environment Amendment Bill to tighten the regulations on youth vaping. She then made an oral presentation on this to NZ Parliament Health Committee (Sep 2022). A question raised by this Health Committee was ‘why are our students vaping and what are we doing with them to tackle this problem?’ These research projects purposely address these concerns.

Anita is leading a project entitled Actions to Vaporize Rangatahi Vaping in Te Matau-a-Māui.

“Here we set out to understand why students vape and to identify gaps in their knowledge around the health harms of vaping. We will also consider the experiences and perceptions of student-facing staff, for completeness in the collection of evidence.”

“From conversations with school staff and school nurses I am aware that they deal with a lot of stand-downs when students are caught vaping and excluded from school. Then there’s a lot of pressure on staff to support these students to catch up on their learning. This study will provide an overall perspective around vaping from students and student-facing staff and underpin actions for vaping intervention programmes.”

Anita is also leading a supporting study ‘Actions to address the epidemic of youth vaping around Māori, Pacific and other non-European intermediate and high school students in Hawke’s Bay’.

“This study builds on preliminary research about the prevalence of youth vaping in Aotearoa. Our Māori students are overrepresented in regard to vaping. In 2019, daily use of e-cigarettes was 2·5-times higher and daily smoking 4·5-times higher in Māori students than in non-Māori, non-Pacific students.”

“This research focuses on the decision-making around vaping and identifying health-knowledge gaps among Māori and Pacific secondary school students. In consultation with our group’s Māori advisors, this work will be grounded in a culturally responsive approach that prioritises co-creation of knowledge to develop meaningful and tailored youth vaping prevention and cessation initiatives. Currently there is little to no appropriate, formalised or MoE approved, anti-vaping educational material in Aotearoa, and schools are desperately seeking teaching tools to support their students.”

Anita says that the S.A.V.E team and Youth Vaping National Network had a presentation from the REACH (Research and Education to Empower Adolescents and Young Adults to Choose Health) Lab, Stanford University in the United States demonstrating the anti-vape educational tool that they developed. “I was very impressed with this tool, and I hope to work collaboratively, nationally and internationally to develop something similar to suit the cultural needs of Aotearoa.”

While the projects are in the early stages, Anita is contacting local school staff and nurses who may be interested in this research. A few have already reached out.

Other EIT | Te Pūkenga researchers Associate Professor Rachel Forrest, Dr Helen Ryan-Stewart and Dr Sue Scott-Chapman are working with Anita on these projects.