Rising Concerns: E-cigarette and Smoking Issues in New Zealand Schools

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Rising Concerns: E-cigarette and Smoking Issues in New Zealand Schools
E-cigarette and smoking issues are increasingly serious in New Zealand schools, with primary school students standing out.

According to a report from RNZ on January 17, the latest data from the New Zealand Ministry of Education shows that the issue of e-cigarette and smoking has become increasingly serious in schools nationwide, with primary school students being more prominent users of e-cigarettes compared to secondary school students. Last year, the majority of students who were demoted due to e-cigarette and smoking were in grades 1 to 8, surpassing grades 9 to 13, which has prompted a profound reflection on smoking cessation measures in schools. This notable phenomenon has appeared in six out of ten regions. From 2022 to 2023, the total number of students demoted due to e-cigarette or smoking has increased by almost 19%.


The statistical data does not provide a detailed breakdown between e-cigarettes and traditional smoking, but according to observations by Phil Palfrey, principal of Rotorua Kaitao Intermediate School, the widespread use of e-cigarettes among students has become a pressing issue. Palfrey points out that some students are even openly using e-cigarettes in the classroom.


Currently, several primary and secondary schools in the Rotorua region have collaboratively developed a new e-cigarette policy. The policy, drafted by Palfrey personally, focuses on educating students and their parents. While school leaders have become more adept at handling this challenge, they should not, in fact, be the primary force in addressing this societal issue.


The Ministry of Education has clarified that the downgrade of data reflects schools' response to e-cigarette and smoking behavior, rather than the behavior itself. President of the Principals' Association, Leanne Otene, stated that school leaders, after receiving education and closely collaborating with young people, have no choice but to adopt stricter policies to address this societal issue.


Despite the government taking some measures, such as new regulations requiring e-cigarettes to have removable batteries and no longer being disposable products, Tammy Downer, co-founder of the "Smoke-free Kids" advocacy organization, argues that this has not brought about substantial change. She believes that broader and more systematic reforms must be implemented in order to truly keep e-cigarettes away from students.


Education Minister Erica Stanford has expressed concerns over the issue of smoking and e-cigarettes in schools, particularly among primary school students. She highlighted that the New Zealand Prime Minister's/National Party's policies already include a ban on the sale of disposable e-cigarette products and stricter penalties for illegal sales to those under 18. Health officials will also provide recommendations to help prevent teenagers from starting smoking and using e-cigarettes. The government is expected to strengthen management of this issue further through new legislation.


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