A Canberra mum has said she and other parents were "feeling powerless" in tackling the rise of vaping among teens after her young son was reportedly approached for vaping liquids.
It comes after a number of ACT schools - including St Mary MacKillop College, Orana Steiner School and Merici College - told The Canberra Times they have recorded increased incidents of students vaping.
MacKillop College recently suspended a group of year eight students as part of a restorative process after they were caught during one incident.
Celine Oudin, whose 13-year-old son goes to Telopea Park School, said her son reported to her that a senior student approached him for vaping liquids earlier this year.
"I was surprised because my son's quite young and he would not be a potential person holding vaping liquid," she said.
"For the moment, he's quite against all this."
Ms Oudin, who is also part of the school's P&C, said it seemed there was no coherent strategy to addressing vaping because it had not been around for as long as other health issues such as cigarettes.
"Parents are really the primary responsible people, but some are feeling powerless about this," she said.
"Some are doing their best as you can't expect the school to do everything.
"The schools have to put some rules in place, of course, to say that it's unacceptable, but they can't act if a child is doing it outside of school grounds."
Parents are really the primary responsible people, but some are feeling powerless about this.Celine Oudin
Ms Oudin said she used to be a smoker and that her way of becoming a positive role model to her son was showing the negative effects of smoking.
"He can see how difficult it's been for me to stop smoking and that's the lesson for him to draw on," she said.
"You have immediate pleasure, but in the long term, you become a slave to it.
"That's what I try to make him see."
Ms Oudin said the best way she has been handling the situation with teenagers was to encourage open dialogue.
"We can't change our teenagers, so it's better we discuss it," she said.
"They have to deal with a lot of things. As they grow, they learn to control their emotions and to take on more responsibilities.
"I also try to remember how I looked at the world as a teenager and try to put myself in their shoes."
"I wouldn't pretend that this is the right advice for everyone, but that's what I feel is right for me."
In Australia between 2016 and 2019, e-cigarette users aged 15-24 increased by about 72,000 (95.7 per cent increase) for a total of about 147,000, the department of health stated in December 2020.
The Telopea Park School P&C held a meeting on May 5 to discuss the territory-wide concerns about vaping.
The school advised the parent group that it had the same approach to this behaviour as with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
If students are caught vaping, their parents are informed. If caught again, the school organises a meeting with the students and their parents to address the issue.
The school has also included vaping as a topic in health classes for high school students.
"As far as we can ascertain, this is a problem across all schools and being met with the same challenges of cigarettes with the added inability to smell the tell-tale scent of nicotine," Ms Oudin said.
A Narrabundah College year 12 student, who did not want to be named, said students were vaping on school grounds and even in class.
"If your friend or someone next to you passed you a vape, you would take it because of peer pressure," they said.
The student said it was very cheap and easy to buy vapes from other students or strangers on social media platform Snapchat.
While the graphic images on cigarette packaging put some teenagers off smoking, the colourful vapes are seen as cool and harmless, the student said.
They also said that students had been told to smoke or vape outside school grounds and that suspensions had been handed out for smoking or vaping on campus, but it had not deterred teens from using the sweet-flavoured vapes.
"Some people just don't really see consequences," the student said.
- More about e-cigarettes by the Department of Health: https://bit.ly/3fi33Av.