Youth want stiffer penalties, peer counselling as solutions to e-cigarettes
Students engage in the World Tobacco Day Youth Forum held at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

PEER counselling, more social media promotion, and stiff penalties are recommendations being made by youngsters in tackling the e-cigarette addiction among their peers.

Their solutions were made during a youth forum as Jamaica and the rest of the world celebrated World No Tobacco Day held under the theme 'Fuel your health, not tobacco use,' on Wednesday.

"We don't have any stiff penalties in our country and that steers our adults into selling them," said Ferncourt High School student Oshane Bailey.

Bailey said serious sanctions would discourage vape vendors from selling the e-cigarettes to those under 18 years.

"Anybody can actually get tobacco at the local shops, so we need some stiffer penalties that will scare our people into not wanting to sell any child at all. I think our adults are failing our children as it relates to tobacco use," he said.

Ardenne High School student Nathanael Tadepalli who suggested peer-to-peer counselling, said it would allow youth to feel comfortable in expressing their views about using vaping products.

"This is for persons that have been exposed to drugs and the effects it can pose. I think that is very effective because we are able to relate to the stories being shared," said Tadepalli.

Immaculate Conception High student Jhonelle Knight agreed, noting that schools should implement more programmes to deal with these issues.

"It is important for us to create a safe space, to sit down with them, get their recommendations on how it is that we punish them because in the school system, it is believed that the most reasonable punishment is suspension or expulsion. Not a lot of schools have rehabilitation programmes to assist students abusing the drugs and it is important to assess these things," she said.

While Kay-Anna Nolan from Belmont Park Primary School added, "I think we can use posters and videos and post them on social media to help people to stop vaping."

According to the 2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, 15 per cent of Jamaicans aged 15 years and older currently use tobacco products. In addition, a significant number of Jamaican students are using tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Currently, 11.2 per cent of students (11.1 per cent of boys and 10.9 per cent of girls) smoke cigarettes, while 11.7 per cent of students (13.7 per cent of boys and 9.7 per cent of girls) use electronic cigarettes.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter

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