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Primary school students suspended for vaping

Disposable flavoured e-cigarette devices are displayed for sale at a tobacco shop in Paris, France. Similar devices are available for purchase in Bermuda (Photograph by Thibault Camus/AP)

Schoolchildren as young as 8 were suspended from a government primary school after being caught vaping, The Royal Gazette has learnt.

A concerned educator contacted the newspaper last week to share news of the suspensions, and called for better supervision and education to be provided.

Two government ministries have joined forces to strengthen anti-vaping messages to young people amid reports by the Ministry of Health of an “alarming rise” in vaping and the use of devices such as nicotine vapour pens.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that it will work with the Ministry of Education in providing education about the dangers.

The educator told The Royal Gazette last week that four students had been suspended after being caught using the devices on November 28, and added: “Parents need to be warned. I would want to know what is in place for these young people.

“How are children being monitored? Are there enough staff on at recess? What should school staff be looking for?

“They should have someone talk to the children as a group about the dangers of vaping.

“Vaping poses significant risks for elementary students, and it’s important to be aware of these dangers.”

A second source close to the school confirmed that the suspensions of four children, the youngest being 8, had taken place.

Vapes are devices used for inhaling vapour that can contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance, and flavouring.

It is not certain what type of vapes were being used by the children, whether they contained nicotine or, as some illegal vapes do, THC — a psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: “The Government places a high priority on the health and wellbeing of our youth, and we are actively addressing this concern through educational initiatives and preventive measures.

“Our goal is to ensure that young individuals comprehend the risks associated with vaping by delivering precise information about its potential impact on their health.

“As I have said before, the disturbing surge in vaping among the youth and the associated hazards represent a troubling public health concern.

“The accessibility of e-cigarettes and similar devices poses a threat to the wellbeing of our young population, proving to be unsafe and adversely affecting their health.

“We urge parents, guardians and teachers to cultivate an environment where children feel comfortable engaging in open and honest conversations, expressing concerns and receiving answers to their questions.”

Ms Wilson said the two ministries are committed to “raising public awareness and providing education on vaping issues”.

Her ministry reminded the public that only registered pharmacies can sell e-cigarettes, nicotine vapes and liquid nicotine.

She added: “Businesses that are not registered pharmacies must stop the sale of these products immediately. Failure to comply may lead to prosecution.”

The ministry did not name any specific businesses that have been caught selling vapes to children, but provided a list of registered pharmacies.

From The Royal Gazette’s previous report on vaping

Once considered a safer alternative to traditional smoking, e-cigarettes have become a significant public health risk, the health ministry said.

Adolescents and teenagers have been drawn to the products because of their attractive designs and flavours, as well as through deceptive marketing tactics.

Studies have shown that the nicotine content in e-cigarette products can lead to addiction in youngsters, especially during the crucial period of brain development.

Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes can also, ironically, become a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking.

Ms Wilson said in October that the Government did not intend to legislate stricter regulations for the devices.

She said: “They are already regulated under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, so only pharmacists are permitted to sell the devices and the cartridges.

“Part of what we’re doing is a reminder informing the public about the dangers of vaping because a lot of people think it’s safer than cigarettes, which it is not.”

Ms Wilson said some products being sold were attractive to children because they were flavoured but said banning them was “not something that’s being explored”.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention facts

• The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for children, teens and young adults

• Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-twenties

• E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine

• Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future

A spokesman for the Ministry of National Security declined to comment, saying that this is more a matter for the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.

During National Prevention Week in May, the Department of National Drug Control held educational sessions on the dangers and consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping.

The Ministry of Legal Affairs said at the time: “The most recent DNDC National School Survey conducted in 2019 reported vaping through e-cigarettes has become an international public health crisis.

“The lifetime prevalence of vaping ranged from a low of 4.1 per cent for M2 to a high of 41.2 per cent for S4 students.

“Overall, slightly over one in five [22 per cent] of the survey respondents reported vaping in their lifetime.”

There was no information provided about the use of the devices by primary-aged schoolchildren.

More information on the risks of e-cigarettes for young people is available via the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Published December 07, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated December 07, 2023 at 7:45 am)

Primary school students suspended for vaping

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