Step-by-step guidelines to quit vaping released


High vaping carries the risk of nicotine addiction among the youth (INL Stock Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, December 6, 2023

E-cigarette use (vaping) among young people has been steadily increasing in New Zealand since the introduction of e-cigarettes and vaping products onto the commercial market in 2017.

While these products are often promoted as a harm reduction tool to support smoking cessation amongst current adult smokers, their use and popularity among younger populations continue to be of concern.

The first New Zealand guidelines to support youth to quit vaping have been released recently at the New Zealand Respiratory Conference in Wellington.

‘A Reference Guide: To support rangatahi to quit vaping,’ published by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ  aims to help health professionals who work with adolescents and young adults (AYA) to tackle vaping and e-cigarette addiction.

Chief Executive Ms Letitia Harding said that the decision to develop these guidelines stemmed from a lack of support available for younger generations.

“We have been advocating for a long time for dedicated support services to help our young people quit vaping,” she said.

It is reported that 1 in 5 (20%) of high school students are now regular vapers. Yet smoking cessation services in New Zealand are funded only to support those over 16 years old who want to stop or reduce their cigarette smoking.

Māori students have the highest rates of regular vaping (34%) compared to other ethnic groups with Māori girls having the highest regular vaping rates at 40%.

Nicotine addiction

Research into what motivates such a high number of our youth to vape was undertaken in 2022, by the Hā Collective and conducted via an online survey across eight schools in Auckland, Dunedin, and Gisborne, garnering responses from 2021 rangatahi.

The survey revealed that the top five reasons youth were vaping included personal relaxation, enjoying the abundant flavours, considering it a way to connect and unwind with friends, finding amusement in learning vaping tricks, and genuinely liking it.

One of the most concerning harms around high youth vaping rates is the potential for nicotine addiction and the negative impacts of this on the youth.

Animal studies have shown the negative effects of nicotine on the brain as it changes some neural pathways, especially during times of development, such as in utero and adolescence.

Nicotine withdrawal is also a concerning issue in AYA, as it can affect behaviour resulting in disruptive classroom learning.

No Support to quit

Despite the high rates of vape use in AYA and the detrimental effects of nicotine addiction in youth, there is little to no support for the young individuals who want to quit vaping and work towards becoming nicotine-free.

However, smoking cessation services in New Zealand are funded only to support those over 16 years old who want to stop or reduce their cigarette smoking.

“We hope that these guidelines will assist health professionals to support AYA, who are now dependent on vapes, to become nicotine-free.” Ms Harding said.

The guidelines are a ‘living document,’ which can be added to as new information becomes available, she said.

Foundation Māori Community Liaison Officer Sharon Pihema said that a lack of support services has been a major obstacle for youth wanting to quit vaping.

“Our youth (rangatahi) and their families (whānau) have been trying to get help from Quitline and their GPs, but with no funding allocated, they get no support. It is almost as if they need to start smoking so they can get help to quit vaping,” she said.

Ms Pihema hopes that these guidelines will remove those barriers as they aim to assist those working with young people to effectively address their vaping and e-cigarette use, focusing on screening and assessment.

The guide offers clinicians a starting point to build a discussion with a young person about their vaping. Quitting e-cigarettes and vapes may require a suite of cessation tools that include behavioural support and pharmacotherapy.

“They need one-on-one support, a plan, and ongoing follow-up to make sure they can successfully quit vaping and lead healthier lives.”

University of New South Wales Public Health Interventions Professor Hayden McRobbie, who is a health behaviour change expert with experience in managing tobacco dependence, said that these guidelines are a positive step in assisting youth to quit vaping.

“There is a dearth of evidence for vaping cessation, however, these guidelines provide some practical tips that health professionals will find helpful,” he said.

The guidelines can be downloaded from Don’t Get Sucked In.
Watch the video for more information.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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