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Health Youth

Opinion: NSW vaping campaign overlooks critical issues among young people

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Vaping

Through our streetwork, we’re seeing vaping continue to be a major issue for young people, particularly those in marginalised communities. It’s great to see the NSW government taking proactive steps towards increasing awareness of the health risks to young people of vaping and becoming addicted to vaping, however, the campaign is overlooking a few critical issues.

The pandemic has led to many young people disengaging from school as they have had to learn from home, and for many at-risk youths, this has been a challenging environment that has severely impacted their mental health. Despite many schools re-opening to students, many at-risk youth continue to be disengaged from school and have found it difficult to maintain pace with the education system or keep up after coming out of lockdowns or restrictions. This has led to them skipping school and taking up activities like vaping.

While vaping on its own has serious and detrimental physical and mental health risks, as highlighted in the NSW government campaign, what isn’t addressed is that the behaviours and culture around young people who vape and are disengaged at school can easily lead to other dangerous activities which could lead to further risks. These students also tend to be prime targets for criminal perpetrators in the community such as drug dealers.

As the government starts to get serious about tackling vaping, this needs to be merely the first step in a multi-pronged approach to supporting young people and removing vaping from their daily lives. This needs to extend to enabling greater collaboration between Government agencies and street workers, greater empowerment of community policing instead of targeted policing which can disassociate young people with adults long-term, and building dedicated places for young people to come together in a safe space, get the support they need, and support their peers.

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