Foróige Sligo, in partnership with the North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force (NWRDATF) and Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB (MSLETB), commissioned research to understand the impact that vaping products have on children and young people in Ireland through listening to their direct experiences of vaping.
‘What’s the Panic with Vaping?’ research examined the habits and perceptions of children and young people in relation to vaping within a range of contexts including youth groups, post primary schools and their own individual perspectives resulting in almost 1,000 stakeholders participating.
The research indicates that across all age groups there is a link between a ‘cool’ identity and vaping use. It also reveals the perceived social standing that vaping allows some young people to feel among their peers, facilitating a sense of social cohesion. Young people consulted as part of the study felt that the marketing of vapes is inherently youth-orientated and directly targets them, with a “toy-like” attraction and inventiveness of products in terms of flavour, colour, and personalisation.
Other insights revealed by children and young people in Sligo and Leitrim, included:
- 10 - 12 year olds said that vapes are openly and prominently displayed at convenient local access points such as local shops and/or through their own social groups.
- 36% of young people between the age of 13 – 16 years said that they currently vape and that they had never smoked previously.
- “I know that I have an addiction… I just don’t think about it, I know it’s going to be hard to get off them…” admitted Anna aged 17.
Josephine Lally, Community Works Social Researcher, commented “While many studies have amassed substantial medical and scientific evidence of the adverse impacts of vaping, the findings of this research present a stark reminder that listening to children and young people’s experiences needs to be included in future actions in addressing the issue of vaping.”
One of key recommendations arising from the research was the need for consistent public health messaging and a direct ‘campaign’ to inform children, young people, their families, educators and youth support sectors about vaping to counteract a dearth of clear information.
Anne Marie Regan, Area Manager Foróige, stated “The stories shared by children and young people show that this is a complex and significant issue for our young population not just in Counties Sligo and Leitrim but also nationally. Hearing directly from young people is critical in developing local and national responses to vaping. We hope that Government, local government and other agencies will hear the message coming from this research and will act to address the recommendations quickly. We can’t wait for an even greater health and addiction crisis amongst children and young people to emerge.”
Due to recent developments in e-cigarettes/vaping legislation, Ireland is at a critical transition point in relation to establishing a clear legislation, policy, information and awareness of vaping and its impacts on children, young people and the wider population.
Many studies have amassed substantial medical and scientific evidence of the adverse impacts of vaping. There is, however, an absence of children and young people’s direct voices in articulating their experiences of vaping. This study was designed to build on the existing Irish research base and provide evidence of how the complex issue of vaping is being experienced by children and young people within the context of Counties Sligo and Leitrim.
Through its drugs education and prevention work as funded by the NWRDATF and MSLETB, Foróige Sligo noted increased reporting of vaping (i.e. use of e-cigarettes) as a prevalent issue among children and young people, reported through school principals and others.