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'All the boys in my class are doing it.' My daughter's school friends are vaping. They’re in Year 4.

When I was in primary school, I dressed my Barbies, boogie-boarded in the whitewash, and had posters of Jonathan Taylor-Thomas blu-tacked to my walls.

My friends and I would run around the playground tipping each other in fits of giggles.

On the weekends, we had sleepovers where we would braid each other’s hair and listen to Take That on repeat.

When something exciting or crazy happened at school, I would burst through the door announcing, 'Mum, Rachael and I got picked to play soccer for the region!'

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So, when my 10-year-old daughter burst through the door announcing that "six boys in my class got caught vaping at school", I have to admit that I was a little surprised.

Yep, vaping. In Year Four. At school.

So many questions went racing through my mind.

Where exactly at school?

Where did they get the vape from?

How do they even know what vaping is?

Do they have any idea how bad this is for them?

Maybe I’m naïve, stuck in my pre-adulting ideology of what primary school children should be doing at that age.

When I walk down the main street of the town I live in, there it is, in plain sight - a store dedicated to vapes.

Every time we walk or drive past this store, my daughter mentions it. I never really took notice of it. 

Every time we walk past someone puffing out clouds of strawberry sweetness, she says, "Mmmm, how nice does that smell?"

Again, I never really batted an eyelid.

Image: Getty.

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But now, that's all I can think about. 

Does my daughter want to try vaping? Is she already talking about it with her friends? 

After my daughter came home from school talking about vaping, I decided to do some research.

So, what is vaping? 

Shaped like cigarettes or pens, e-cigarettes or 'vapes' are battery-operated devices that use refillable tanks or disposable cartridges to heat liquid ("vape juice") which users inhale. 

The liquid is a mix of chemicals and oils that can be combined with nicotine flavourings, such as chocolate and bubblegum.

Vaping devices and nicotine pose risks such as lung damage, harm to brain development, nicotine addiction, and even cancer.

According to the Alcohol & Drug Foundation’s statistics on Vaping in Australia, 14 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds have tried an e-cigarette, and 32 per cent had tried it in the past month. This figure doesn’t account for kids under the age of 12, so when looking at tweens, this percentage would likely be higher.

With the lack of current education around the risks of vaping for tweens and teens, this age group is fast becoming the highest percentage of current e-cigarette/vaping smokers in Australia.

According to the same study, students who vaped reported getting the vape from a friend (63 per cent), siblings (8 per cent), or parents (7 per cent), with around 12 per cent reporting buying an e-cigarette themselves. 

As of October 1, users need a valid doctor's prescription to be able to purchase nicotine vaping products in Australia. However, non-nicotine devices and liquids can be legally sold and purchased online in most states and territories. 

Not knowing where exactly young kids could be seeing vaping (outside of their family and friends), I did a bit of a deep dive into the advertising of vapes and e-cigarettes.

While popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok say that they will remove any content or advertising relating to the sale or purchase of e-cigarettes and vaping products on their sites, there is still a vast amount of vaping content shown on both TikTok and Snapchat. 

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Many young children have access to these social media sites and are heavily influenced by what they see on them. And with public users sharing their vaping products openly with other followers and users, exposure to this type of content is rife. 

Research from Stanford University in 2020 actually identified a strong link between promoting vaping via social media and the susceptibility of teens wanting to try vaping.

When six boys in my daughter’s class were caught vaping, they were reprimanded immediately, and their parents were asked to come into the school to discuss the incident. 

It turns out that one of the boys 'borrowed' the vaping device from his dad and brought it into school after he and the other boys had previously discussed getting their hands on one. 

That night after school, I had a conversation with my daughter about what vaping is and why it is dangerous. She asked questions, and I answered them honestly. This approach has always proven to be the best method.

We also talked about how what you see on TV or online, no matter how 'cool it may look at the time, is never truly the reality. I told her that she needs to question everything she views before thinking something might be a good idea.

When it comes to online safety and being across everything, my kids might be being exposed to, I refer to my resources within the Safe on Social Parents Toolkit. It has everything you need to know as a parent with kids online. Setting up parental controls, privacy settings and just knowing how certain apps and games work has really grown my online literacy and allowed me to be ahead of the curve.

If your kids ever get caught vaping or say they want to try it, I can’t encourage you enough to just talk to them and listen. 

It’s worked so well for me and my daughter in the past and I’m sure it will help you and the relationships with your kids too. 

Confused about Snapchat? Unsure about TikTok? Meet the Safe on Social Toolkit: the digital ‘survival kit’ designed to arm parents with everything they need to know about keeping their kids safe online. Find out more now at www.safeonsocialtoolkit.com.

Feature Image: Getty.

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