New Zealand’s Ministry of Education data reveals alarming smoking problems among primary school students

According to the latest figures from the New Zealand Ministry of Education, primary schools in many places face a greater problem with e-cigarettes and smoking than secondary schools. In the past year, 19 percent of students were demoted for vaping or smoking. Many schools have adopted new vape policies.


According to media reports on January 17, the latest data from the New Zealand Ministry of Education show that vaping and smoking problems are becoming more and more serious in schools across the country, and the application of vapes by primary school students is more prominent than that of middle school students. Last year, most students in grades 1 through 8 were downgraded for vaping and smoking. This number exceeds grades 9 to 13 and has prompted a deep rethink of smoking cessation measures in schools. This remarkable phenomenon occurred in six out of 10 regions. From 2022 to 2023, the total number of students downgraded due to vaping or smoking increased by almost 19 percent.


The statistics do not distinguish in detail between e-cigarettes and traditional smoking, but analysis by PhilPalfrey, principal of RotoruaKaitao Junior High School, suggests that widespread use of vapes among students has become a priority. He noted that some students even use vapes openly in the classroom.


Currently, many primary and junior high schools in the Rotorua region have worked together to develop a new vape policy. The policy, developed by Palfrey himself, focuses on educating students and their parents. While school leaders are gradually becoming more skilled in facing this challenge, the truth is that they should not be the primary force in solving this societal problem.


The Department of Education made it clear that the downgraded data reflected the school’s response to vaping and smoking, not the behavior itself. LeanneOtene, president of the Federation of Headteachers, said that after being educated and working closely with youngsters, school leaders had no choice but to adopt stricter policies to tackle this social problem.


While the government has taken some steps, such as new regulations that require vapes to no longer be disposable goods, TammyDowner, founder of the advocacy group Tobacco-Free Kids, said it hasn’t made a substantial difference. She believes that to truly keep vapes away from students, broader and more systematic reforms are necessary.


In primary schools, in particular, Education Minister Erica Stanford expressed concern about smoking and vaping in schools. He noted that New Zealand’s presidential/National Coalition policies have included a ban on the sale of single-use vape products and tougher penalties for illegal sales to people under 18. Health officials will also make recommendations to prevent teens from starting to smoke and vaping. In the new legislation, the government is expected to further strengthen the management of this issue.