Vape victims
Youngsters say they are targeted in purchasing e-cigarettes
St Richard's Primary School student Judah Dennis (left), who is the winner of the poster competition done to highlight the harmful use of tobacco, shares a photo op with executive director at Physical Therapy Solutions Dr Bernadette Bryan Frankson (centre) and executive director at National Council on Drug Abuse Michael Tucker, on Wednesday. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

YOUTH at the primary and secondary level are asserting that the pretty packages and a variety of flavours for e-cigarettes are tactics used by vendors to captivate the attention of their peers who are blindsided by the products' harmful effects.

The students shared their opinions during a World No Tobacco Day Youth Forum held under the theme, 'Fuel your health, not tobacco use,' on Wednesday to raise awareness about the dangerous use of the drug.

At the same time, they suggested that the easy accessibility of vaping products helps to boost the addiction of their peers.

"We are being targeted with vapes. Not every teenager is going to know how to make a 'spliff', so they come in with the vape which is easier to access," said Rihanna Reid, grade 12 student at Garvey Maceo High School.

Student panellists (from left) Ardenne High School's James Wemyss-Gorman and Nathanael Tadepalli; Garvey Maceo High School's Rihanna Reid; Immaculate Conception High School's Jhonelle Knight and Alexcia Cooper share their views on the addictive use of vaping products among their peers during the World Tobacco Day Youth Forum held at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on Wednesday.

Grade nine student at Calabar High School Jahmari Forest said, "I think vape companies target children, so they can have a loyal customer for life."

According to Immaculate Conception High School student Alexcia Cooper, it is not as easy to realise the dangerous effects of vaping, as it is with cigarette smoking,

"It is a chemical thing. When you start vaping at a young age, you realise you want to constantly do it. It's not like a cigarette where you can sense the immediate effects," she said.

She added: "The reason is that the nicotine in the vapes release chemicals in your brain called dopamine and that's like a happy chemical and once you take in this nicotine, you release more dopamine in your body and the more addictive it is. It is a chemical thing to trick kids into wanting to take it and what you don't realise is that you are damaging your body."

Further, grade 12 student at Ardenne High James Wemyss-Gorman said: "A few of the factors are the flavours they introduce to the market, as well as the packages with the various colours."

He added: "I think it is very easy to access because of the lack of regulations for a lot of distributors. Most people who distribute vapes or cigarettes to children under 18, I think they really just don't care and it is very sad to see in our country."

According to Ferncourt High School student Oshane Bailey, not only are the vaping products attractive, but they are not easily identifiable.

"The ability to hide it is one of the things that attract the young people. I have seen in my school where, sometimes when we get to other students or hear that they have the vape on them, [you don't realise]. It doesn't carry a scent as the normal tobacco would," he said.

And grade six student at Belmont Park Primary School Kaesi Mitchell said, some parents influence their children to use vaping products.

"I also think that parents play a major role in the use of tobacco. If you are in a household with parents who vape, you are going to feel like if your parents vape, it is okay for you to vape," she said.

Meanwhile, acting permanent secretary and director of corporate services at the Ministry of Health and Wellness Paulette Smith said the ministry is concerned about the increased reports of the use of e-cigarettes or vaping by youth and children.

Pointing to data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, she said 2.6 per cent of students (2.8 per cent of boys and 2.5 per cent of girls) used smokeless tobacco.

"Most of these devices contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to smoke cigarettes as adults," said Smith at the forum.

"We implore youth to take into consideration the long-term health effects these devices may have on their health," she added.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter

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