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Teen Vaping Surge: How Parents Can Prevent Underage Vaping

Vigilance Key as Teen Vaping Climbs: A Closer Look


Teen Vaping On The Rise: A Call To Action For Parents

A disturbing new study from the University of Cape Town Lung Institute highlights the growing rates of teenage vaping in South Africa.

Their research found that nearly 7,000 students are currently vaping, with more than a quarter of them in Grade 12.

Vaping consists of inhaling vapors produced by an e-cigarette or similar device, which heats a liquid into an aerosol.

The e-liquids in question often contain nicotine or cannabis extracts, presenting potential risks, especially to younger users.

In light of these troubling statistics, the Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) is calling for increased parental vigilance and education about the risks of vaping this holiday season.

Understanding the Vaping Trend Among Adolescents

VPASA CEO Asanda Gcoyi notes that more research is needed to understand the motivations behind youth vaping.

However, she cites peer pressure, curiosity, and stress relief as contributing factors. The accessibility of vaping products from unscrupulous vendors also enables underage use.

The UCT study paints a concerning picture of prevalence across grades: after Grade 12, the figures show 17.4% in Grade 11, 13% in Grade 10, and 10.8% in Grade 9.

The stress of examination periods might drive students to seek relief—worryingly, in the form of vaping, according to Gcoyi.

Exams can drive students to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as vaping. Parents should be aware of potential signs of nicotine addiction, including changes in behavior or unusual smells.

Education about positive alternatives for stress reduction is critical to curbing teen vaping, according to Gcoyi.

Critical Signs of Vaping Addiction and How To Spot Them

Warning signs of vaping may include unfamiliar scents, ranging from chocolate to fruit-like odors, as well as increased thirst or foreign gadgets that resemble USB drives or cables.

Gcoyi points out the imperative need for regulations that prevent under-18 sales, emphasizing that nicotine can disrupt brain development.

With the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill on the parliamentary docket since 2022, the VPASA anticipates it will fortify measures to limit youth access to vaping products.

However, the Democratic Alliance’s health spokesperson, Michele Clarke, questions the bill’s capacity to address broader tobacco usage issues, especially highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis.

Clarke advocates for a more concerted effort to dismantle the illegal tobacco market before passing new regulations.

How Parents and Retailers Can Collaborate to Curb Teen Vaping

The association has taken a proactive stance, with its retail members agreeing to clear packaging age restrictions, warnings, and non-youth-targeted artwork.

Proposed legislation, such as the Tobacco Control Act, aims to limit youth access by explicitly penalizing vendors who sell to minors.

Packaging requirements will also deter youth appeal. But illicit trade remains a barrier, undermining regulations on legal vaping products.

Collaboration between parents, schools, and responsible retailers is critical to limiting access and risky behavior.

However, vaping education and helping teens find healthy outlets for stress are essential to addressing the alarming youth vaping crisis, as revealed by this eye-opening study.

How  Parental prevention of youth vaping

Curating underage vaping cannot fall solely on lawmakers and retailers. Parents also play a critical role in protecting teens from unsafe use of vaping products. Here are some tips for parents who want to prevent teen vaping:

  • Have open conversations about the risks of vaping. Discuss facts without judgment. Emphasize health over discipline.
  • Know the signs, such as unusual odors, increased thirst, or suspicious paraphernalia. Don’t rely solely on apparent vapor clouds.
  • Monitor your social media for pro-vaping influences. Follow anti-vape advocates who call out deceptive tactics aimed at youth.
  • Watch for sketchy purchases, such as debit charges at vape shops. Ask about money requests that seem suspicious.
  • Suggest positive stress-reduction alternatives such as exercise, art, mindfulness, or counseling to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Advocate for school education programs about the risks of vaping over abstinence-only messages, which are ineffective.
  • Set a good example by not vaping or smoking yourself—model positive ways to cope with anxiety.
  • Develop an open, understanding relationship where your teen feels comfortable talking to you about peer pressure or evil influences.

Parent-child trust and communication are paramount. Discuss facts without lecturing. Involve them in the rules of your home. With mutual understanding, parents can curb dangerous underage vaping.

In summary

This eye-opening study revealing the rise of underage vaping requires a multifaceted response. The proposed Tobacco Control Bill seeks to curb access through age restrictions and packaging requirements.

However, the ongoing illicit trade allows products to slip through legislative cracks. Retailers restricting sales to minors can help, but true change relies on education and providing teens with healthier alternatives.

Parents, in particular, must have informed, open conversations about vaping risks. Monitoring for warning signs, building trust, and suggesting positive coping mechanisms make prevention the most effective.

As Minister Motshekga urged, parents should know their children’s whereabouts and activities during celebratory times to avoid tragedies like Enyobeni.

With collaborative efforts across all stakeholders, including retailers assisting through restricted sales, South Africa can work to reverse the alarming adolescent vaping crisis.

However, engaged parenting and education are essential to enact real change by protecting teens from the severe risks revealed in this study.

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