'Teen vaping crisis' drives public unease Kids need to realise the health hazards

'teen vaping crisis' drives public unease  kids need to realise the health hazards

Students from Wat Pak Bo School in Suan Luang district in June perform a show to highlight a no-smoking campaign in which 10 schools in Bangkok were honoured for keeping smoking and alcohol out of their premises. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

A domestic tobacco control network has voiced concern about young children smoking e-cigarettes.

In a seminar discussing the issue of youth vaping on Wednesday, Sompong Jitradap, a member of the national tobacco product control board, said there has been a spike in the number of teenagers who vape.

According to a survey on Thai people’s health conducted in 2019 and 2020, 5.3% of children aged 10 to 19 years have tried vaping, and 2.9% do so regularly. Around 30% of people in this age bracket who smoke e-cigarettes are women, the study showed.

Mr Sompong said more needs to be done to raise awareness of the harmful effects of vaping, which can negatively impact the brain, heart, and lungs and cause cancer. He also cautioned that smoking can serve as a gateway to other more harmful drugs.

Patcharapan Prajuablap, secretary-general of the Thailand Youth Institute (TYI), said one of the problems with vaping is that it is considered safer and more trendy than smoking regular cigarettes, especially among high school students. And many vendors are happy to cater to them, he said.

“We should address the youth vaping problem as a national crisis,” he said.

“The easier it is for children to access e-cigarettes, the quicker they will potentially move on to other illicit drugs,” he added. “We should help protect them.”

Tanitcha Limpanich, who oversees a project to curb smoking among families, described the vaping issue as a structural problem, given how readily accessible the equipment is both online and at local markets.

With vapes being illegal in Thailand, many are designed to resemble pieces of stationery so they go unnoticed at schools, she said.

Ms Tanitcha said teachers and parents must educate children on the risks tied to smoking e-cigarettes.

Dr Roengrudee Patanavanich, a lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, said vendors currently offer more than 16,000 different flavours of vaping liquid, making it easier for children to get hooked.

She cited one study which showed that one vape cartridge contains as much nicotine as a packet of 20 regular cigarettes.

Half of those who vaped experienced depression while 70% of children found it difficult to kick the habit, she said.

Dr Roengrudee urged the government not to legalise e-cigarette products.