In a worrying trend, a total of 800 students, ranging from primary-school age to those enrolled in institutes of higher learning (IHLs), were prosecuted for vaping offences in 2022, according to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
As concerns grow over the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes, the Ministry of Education (MOE) referred these students to the authority, with some facing fines of up to $2,000 per offence.
According to news reports, The Ministry of Education (MOE) has referred the students to the HSA, with some facing fines of up to $2,000 per offence for buying, using, or owning a vaporiser.
While the MOE confirmed that the students come from various educational institutions, they declined to provide a detailed breakdown.
According to Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman, prior to 2020, fewer than 50 students from schools and IHLs were referred to the HSA for vaping offences.
This significant increase in cases has prompted both the government and health agencies to express concerns not only about the prevalence of vaping among students but also within the wider community.
To address this growing issue, the HSA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Board (HPB), has implemented a comprehensive strategy. This approach combines legislation, enforcement, public education, and counseling to tackle the possession and use of vaporisers among students.
As part of the strategy, students caught using or possessing e-vaporisers will be required to attend cessation programs arranged by the HPB and their respective schools. In cases of persistent offenders, schools may refer them to the HSA for further action, which could include composition fines or prosecution.
Despite the ban on e-cigarettes and vaporisers since February 1, 2018, the number of individuals caught for using and possessing these devices continues to rise. In 2022, a total of 4,916 people were apprehended, compared to 4,697 the previous year and 1,266 in 2020.
In a crackdown on sellers, the HSA reported that between April and August 2023, 18 individuals were convicted for selling vaporisers and related components, resulting in fines totaling $153,000.
Schools are also taking measures to address the issue internally.
A discipline master, who preferred to remain anonymous, revealed that first-time offenders are typically given a warning, with the school notifying their parents. In an attempt to deter future incidents, students may be assigned tasks such as collecting discarded vaporisers or cigarette butts on school premises. The discipline master also highlighted the creative ways in which students attempt to conceal their vaping habits, necessitating random checks by teachers.
The MOE clarified that the use of vaporiser detectors is not mandated, leaving schools to determine the most effective methods for conducting checks on vaping offences.
Meanwhile, sellers of vaporisers have shifted their operations online, targeting children and young adults with colorful and disposable devices. These vaporisers contain various chemicals, collectively referred to as “e-juice,” which may include nicotine.
Medical professionals have warned of the dangers associated with vaping, citing the potential for respiratory problems similar to those caused by cigarette smoking.
Dr. Aneez Ahmed, a senior consultant lung surgeon, said in an interaction with ST that the heightened risks faced by adolescents due to their developing respiratory systems. He further noted that vaping can lead to nicotine dependence, potentially predisposing users to cigarette smoking in the future.
Psychotherapist Andrew Da Roza, specializing in addictions, highlighted the higher risk of dependency when individuals start using nicotine at a younger age. He explained the psychoactive effects of nicotine, which can initially provide positive sensations such as improved attention, focus, memory, and relief from anxiety. However, withdrawal symptoms can result in the opposite effects, including lack of focus, low mood, and anxiety.
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