‘Eye-opening’: Western Sydney Local Health District leads the way on new key research about vaping in schools

Spearheading ground-breaking research on adolescent e-cigarette use, Professor Smita Shah OAM and her team from the Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU) at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) have shared their recent findings during the ‘Voices from the Community on the Prevention of Youth Vaping’ forum.

Conducted across seven different high schools in greater western Sydney, their leading study presents key findings and preferred strategies to address this pressing issue.

I found it very eyeopening. It was a lot of information and how it was presented made it easy to understand everything.

Student feedback

“As educators and health professionals, we are all too aware of the dangers that vaping poses to our young people. Today we have the privilege of hearing what our students, staff and parents have to say on this issue,” Professor Shah said during her opening address at the forum.

More than 160 students, 130 school staff and 30 parents participated in the research, which employed an interactive, strengths-based approach, engaging students, staff, and parents to understand their perceptions and concerns regarding e-cigarette use among adolescents.

Everyone was participating and engaging in the work.

Student feedback

The findings are a beacon of hope for the concerned parents and medical community, with children participating in the study eloquently speaking about the skills they have learned during the program.

As touched on by guest speaker Dr Moya Vandeleur, Respiratory and Sleep Physician, Melbourne Children’s Hospital during the forum, the health impacts of vaping are vast and alarming: dependence, harm to the developing adolescent brain, respiratory problems, permanent lung damage, persistent coughing and even poison from e-cigarette liquid (if swallowed).

If you were to sit us down and lecture us for an hour on the dangers of vaping, nothing would get through. This worked because we got involved and it was engaging.

Student feedback

The findings from PERU’s research can be broken down into several crucial takeaways:

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’: Schools request tailored education and engagement to address unique needs!
  • Education for young people needs to centre on effective learning approaches for tackling vaping. This means a focus on how and what young people learn, and the best ways to engage.
  • Prevention messaging needs to resonate with the children’s peer group.
  • A holistic approach to combat vaping needs to be embraced across the school, with supportive strategies, policies, and parent/staff education.
  • Focus on collaborative efforts between health and education for wellbeing-centred vaping prevention strategies.

I felt like our choices mattered and our opinions mattered.

Student feedback

Graeme Loy, Chief Executive of WSLHD, emphasized the importance of giving our youth a voice on this issue, and thanked the team for their “commitment to positive change”.