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New funding boost for significant EIT | Te Pūkenga study into vaping among school students

August 31, 2023

Members of a EIT | Te Pūkenga research project addressing the epidemic of youth vaping among intermediate and high school students are Assoc. Prof. Rachel Forrest, Jocelyn Lañas-Pangan, Melody Khan, Assoc. Prof. Anita Jagroop-Dearing, Dr Helen Ryan-Stewart, Dr Sue Scott-Chapman.

A local EIT | Te Pūkenga research project addressing the epidemic of youth vaping among intermediate and high school students (ākonga) in Hawke’s Bay has received a funding boost from the Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand.

The research is being conducted by a team lead by Associate Professor Anita Jagroop-Dearing from EIT | Te Pūkenga. This study will build on another project recently funded by the Health Research Foundation, Hawke’s Bay and led by EIT | Te Pūkenga. This programme of research will capture the stories, experiences and health awareness of e-cigarette vaping by our youth.

“There are limited studies in Aotearoa that formally explore an in-depth analysis on these topics,” says Assoc Prof Jagroop-Dearing.

The Health Research Council study is entitled Scoping Solutions to Address the Epidemic of Youth Vaping in Aotearoa.

“The funding will be used to carry out a synthesis of both quantitative and qualitative studies about vaping programmes. We consider national and international research to scope culturally and age appropriate, youth vaping-cessation programmes for Aotearoa. The team intends to identify any currently used anti-vaping educational tools with a view of co-designing a pro-equity anti-vaping programme for use in intermediate and high schools in Aotearoa NZ.”

The new funding from the Health Research Council, has enabled research assistants Jocelyn Lañas-Pangan and Melody Khan to join the team.

“This will also allow us to do more interviews with students and student-facing staff. We can therefore consider various student ethnicities, age and school decile, so that we can understand any unique factors that underpin these students decision-making as it pertains to vaping”.

The research sets out to understand reasons for vaping and barriers or enablers for quitting vaping.

 “We also want to determine what knowledge students have about the health-harms and wellbeing impacts of vaping. If there is a broader understanding about student vaping, we can tailor a more effective solution to support vape users to quit, discourage new users and to develop more holistic intervention strategies around vaping,” says Assoc Prof Jagroop-Dearing.

Assoc Prof 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 national group.

She says the group is “alarmed by the high levels of youth vaping”.

“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 also seem to be graduating to cigarette-smoking.”

Assoc Prof Jagroop-Dearing says there has been an enthusiastic response from schools to support this research. She says more could be done with Government policy to target the marketing and sale of vaping products containing nicotine.

Interviews are set to begin soon, with the literature review expected to start next year.

“Work is needed urgently. Unofficially, we hear about issues related to vaping by speaking with students, school staff and parents. Just being out in public, you can see there is an urgent need for some kind of solution, but as a scientist, I need to go through the research process. I don’t have that magic bullet.”

“What I hear is that the schools are at a loss, the parents are at a loss, and the students themselves don’t know where to turn to for help as they become addicted to nicotine. They just don’t know how to stop even when they want to stop!,” she says.

The EIT | Te Pūkenga researchers Associate Professor Rachel Forrest, Dr Sue Scott-Chapman, Dr Helen Ryan-Stewart, Jocelyn Lañas-Pangan and Melody Khan are working with Associate Professor Anita Jagroop-Dearing on these projects.

“We need to do everything we can to protect our young people from the harms of vaping,” said Assoc Prof Jagroop-Dearing. “This research is a critical step in that effort.”