The NCSA’S 2020 National Primary School Survey targeted primary school students ages 9-11 and sought to determine: the prevalence and frequency of drug use, common drug sources and locations of use, as well as the age of first use for various substances. It also assessed several factors typically associated with drug use, including perceived harm, curiosity, access to drugs, parental involvement, school experience, social media use, videogaming and bullying.
Just over half (56.2%) of all students reported the use of any drug during their lifetime, with alcohol being the most used substance (lifetime prevalence = 51.7%) followed by energy drinks (lifetime prevalence = 39.7%) and inhalants (lifetime prevalence=20.9%). The use of tobacco cigarettes (lifetime prevalence = 4.8%), fanta (lifetime prevalence = 4.5%) and marijuana (lifetime prevalence = 4.3%) was much less common.
The Health Services Act Cap.44 clearly states an electronic smoking device as, “an electronic nicotine-delivery system such as an electronic cigarette, cigar, cigarillo or pipe, which is used to simulate the act of smoking;”. The act also seeks to protect minors from purchasing, using or handling any tobacco product. In the act a minor is defined as any person under the age of 18. This act is aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for use, purchasing and handling of tobacco products by minors. Therefore, the NCSA continues to offer drug education to audiences such as primary and secondary schools, community-based groups, churches, and workplaces paying a special focus on the new phenomena of vaping.
Anecdotal information reaching the NCSA suggest that there has been an increase in the use of vaping devices across the island. This can be linked to the ease of access to obtaining vaping devices with the increase of vaping shops and hookah lounges across the island. This anecdotal information is buttressed with reports received from our Substance Abuse Prevention Officers during their interventions with various populations. It is also note wordy to say many young people are of the opinion that the liquids use in the vaping devices are just flavoured air. However, it is important to note that many of the liquids used in the vaping devices contain the addictive substance of nicotine found in traditional cigarettes and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana which poses a threat to the public health.
Of course, the NCSA is concerned with the statistics highlighted in the mentioned report. What we can say is taxing vaping products cannot be the only solution to combat the use of vaping devices and the use of tobacco products. Taxing vaping products must be coupled with the relevant legislation, enforcement of the legislation and education, most importantly drug education. For further clarification please refer to Health Services Act. CAP. 44, ‘Health Services (Protection of Minors from Tobacco Products) Regulations, 2010.
In conclusion, we remind the public that our research has consistently highlighted the fact that the home and the family are the main sources of access to substances by our minors. Therefore, it is important that parents and caregivers pay close attention to persons their supervising because vaping devices can be easily concealed. It must be noted these devices can resemble regular pens, flash drives etc. In addition, many of the liquids use in these devices are design to attract the attention of the youth, while the flavours are designed to mask the scent of substances.