‘Gen Z’ group alarmed by rise in vaping in schools

28 May 2024

By Chairith Yonpiam, Bangkok Post

A campaign is gaining traction to eradicate e-cigarettes from schools where use has increased more than fivefold in the last seven years, according to studies cited by campaigners.

Education Minister Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob’s message on Monday bolstered the government’s commitment to stamping out e-cigarettes. The message was delivered at a forum attended by members of the ‘Gen Z Strong’ campaign organised by the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation (ASHF) Thailand.

Members of the campaign, launched in 2015, from around the country exchanged their experiences of raising youth awareness of the danger of tobacco and e-cigarette smoking.

At the forum, Pol Gen Permpoon stressed it is the government’s policy to keep people away from e-cigarettes as they are also dangerous to health.

Often, they lead to drug abuse as the ministry has intensified its effort to act against e-smoking. School administrators, for example, are authorised to confiscate e-cigarettes from students on the spot on school premises.

He said the Gen Z Strong campaign has been instrumental in weaning youths off e-cigarettes and keeping students from experimenting with them.

“The image of e-cigarettes as being harmful and shameful needs to be reinforced,” the minister said, adding the road to building a strong community against e-cigarettes starts at home.

He said he had instructed authorities to crack down on e-cigarettes found to have been sold by students to classmates. Words about the chemical harm posed by smoking were also put out through various channels.

Pol Gen Permpoon said it was concerning that youths as young as 13 have taken up e-cigarette smoking and pointed out that tip-offs about the illegal sale and smuggling of e-cigarettes may be conveyed on the 1166 hotline.

ASHF assistant manager Chawala Pawaputanont Na Mahasarakham said e-cigarette smoking by youths aged between 13 and 15 jumped more than fivefold, from 3.3% in 2015 to 17.6% last year.

The figures were gathered from 6,700 students in secondary schools nationwide during the period.
The survey also showed a significant increase in e-cigarette smoking among girls.

She said many students and teachers have joined the “Gen Z Strong” campaign, which has networks across 28 provinces.
Altogether 6,776 people have signed up as members. Thanya Thongsan, chair of the GenZ club affiliated with the campaign in Phetchabun, said e-smoking has inhibited learning.