E-cigarettes and school students

June 23, 2019 by  
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The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, particularly among high school students in Australia, and, given that the use of these devices is a relatively new phenomenon, Sydney’s Moriah College has provided students and parents with some relevant background information.

Moriah College

Jan Hart is the Head of High School at Moriah College and writes:

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapour that is inhaled. The fluid usually contains propylene glycol, glycerol, nicotine and added flavouring(s). The devices are designed to deliver the aerosol directly to the lungs. Some resemble conventional cigarettes, while more recently developed devices look like everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks. The appeal of these flavoured e-cigarettes to adolescents has led to their rapid uptake around the world.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is concerned that e-cigarettes have ‘renormalised’ smoking. A worryingly recent study has also found that e-cigarette users were three times more likely than non-e-cigarette users to subsequently become tobacco smokers.

While the damaging impact of smoking tobacco is well known, the short and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are still being researched.

SAFETY OF E-CIGARETTES

Jan Hart

Although the compositions of the e-cigarette liquids vary, they all contain a range of different solvents and flavouring agents which have the potential to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory diseases.

When overheated, the solvents propylene glycol and glycerine can produce dangerous levels of the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

The vapour can also contain:

  • Heavy metals such as aluminium, arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and tin, all of which cause adverse health effects.
  • Particulates at levels that have the potential to cause adverse health effects for both the user and for bystanders. The World Health Organisation has warned that exposure to any level of particulate matter may be harmful and that levels of exposure should be minimised.
  • Flavourings normally approved for use in food production e.g. cherry, cinnamon, vanilla and popcorn flavours which, when inhaled directly into the lungs, can be toxic and have been demonstrated to have a range of different deleterious effects.

The NHMRC has found that users of e-cigarettes typically experience a low rate of adverse effects in the short-term, with mouth and throat irritation the most commonly reported symptoms. The most common symptoms reported by those passively exposed to e-cigarettes included respiratory difficulties, eye irritation, headache, nausea and sore throat or throat irritation.

More serious adverse events have also been reported, with over 200 incidents in the US and UK alone of e-cigarettes overheating, catching fire or exploding, leading to disfigurement and life-threatening injury. The rising popularity of e-cigarette use internationally has also corresponded with an increasing number of reported nicotine poisonings due to skin exposure to or ingestion of e-liquids.

The newest and most popular vaping product is the JUUL, which resembles a USB memory stick.  This device now accounts for three-quarters of the market share in the United States and every JUUL product contains a large dose of nicotine. Many lawmakers and public health officials in the US have criticised the company’s marketing practices, believing them to have targeted teens through social media influencers and their promotion of fruity pod flavours, which are now only sold online.

VAPING AND THE LAW IN NEW SOUTH WALES

  • E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal for use by adults. The sale and use of e-liquid nicotine is against the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes or e-cigarette accessories to a person under the age of 18 is illegalNSW Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008.  It is also illegal to use an e-cigarette in a car with a child under the age of 16.
  • Note: E-cigarettes have also often been found to be labelled incorrectly. Despite claims to the contrary, many do contain nicotine. Tests conducted by NSW Health in 2013 showed that 70 percent of the samples contained high levels of nicotine, even though the label did not state nicotine as an ingredient.

Nicotine is known to be very addictive and can impact on brain development in teenagers, affecting memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention and mood.

“While smokers build up a tolerance to nicotine, people exposed to nicotine for the first time may experience mild symptoms of nicotine poisoning.”

NSW Health Fact Sheet: Are electronic cigarettes and e-liquids safe? 

VAPING AT THE COLLEGE AND COLLEGE EVENTS

Moriah College’s position is clear for all parents and students. Students must not “possess, smoke, consume, use, or deal in tobacco, e-cigarettes, prohibited drugs, alcohol or assist another person to obtain, consume, use, or deal in such substances, on College premises including buildings, gardens, sports fields and car parks and at College-sanctioned events, including camps, trips or tours conducted by the College.” 

ADDRESSING THIS MATTER WITH STUDENTS

While education regarding the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes is part of our normal Personal Development, Health and Physical Education program, over the next week, our PDHPE staff will be addressing e-cigarette use specifically with all High School students.

At Moriah College, our Wellbeing team is always on-hand to offer expert advice and assistance on these matters, and we encourage parents with any questions or concerns regarding their child’s health to contact a member of the team or their child’s Head of House.

Comments

5 Responses to “E-cigarettes and school students”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    Well, that’s a bit of a rant, Dennis, and highly judgemental, too. ‘Healthy lifestyle folks’? You consider yourself one of them, I suppose … although it doesn’t sound too healthy to me to so smugly categorise. Are you saying that only healthy lifestyle folks pay taxes?!! And how on earth do you rate vaping as like criminal behaviour, or smoking for that matter?

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    All tobacco/smoking related products should be banned.

  3. Liat Kirby says:

    I agree with Mark Stave. There are ill-informed campaigners against e-cigarettes and others who take a high moral stand for whatever reason …

    I do not use them and have never smoked. I don’t jump on bandwagons either.

  4. Mark Stave says:

    Next time you venture into writing about topics over which there is considerable controversy AND there are hundreds of peer reviewed studies, consider actually reading some of the studies that produced data on both sides. You leave out the studies showing levels of carcinogens in vaping are multiple orders of magnitude lower than smoking, that it’s twice as effective in smoking cessation than other methods, that the cardio effects are transitory and comparable to caffeine, the COPD suffers who switched from smoking to vaping experience a large reduction in symptoms, that second hand vapor contents fall under the limits of the Occupational Health and Safety admin in the US, etc…

  5. Dennis G Hulse says:

    Vaping like smoking should be banned just like some criminal behaviors are banned. If not then at least exclude people who vape and smokers alike from the free public Health system because they are creating their own future health problems negligently and by intention. Why should healthy lifestyle folks pay taxes that fund the Health system to support those who don’t care less what they are doing to their own well-being?

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