Principal's Comments

Posted Thursday September 7, 2023

Kia ora e te whanau

Term 3 rumbles on and as we come to the end of winter, we look to the trees that have lost their leaves and have withstood the cold winter months, waiting in patience for the coming of spring. In this time consolidating on the reserves necessary to bring forth new shoots, leaves and flowers. These trees re-energise and re-invigorate themselves in preparation for this time and we are able to take in the beauty and blessings of creation.

In like manner our young people and all of us are also called to revitalise, re-energise and bring forth our capabilities to reap the fruits of our hard work. Let this be a time for us to grow spiritually, in mental toughness, physical strength and preparedness for what lies ahead this term and as we progress to the end of the year. The possibilities are limitless when we walk in the plans the Lord has for each one of us. Each day brings new hope and the desire to be effective and efficient in all that we do as we see His plans unfold in our lives. Let the words from Philippians 4:13 ring true “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Let the goodness of these words nourish our body and minds as we head into spring and enhance our abilities to understand the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of us.

This week I would like to address vaping in our school. All high schools, and I believe many primary schools, are facing an increase in the uptake amongst our young people and St Peter’s College is no different. There is evidence that vaping is a good tool to help people kick their cigarette habit- however most teenagers do not have a cigarette habit to start with. The problem is vaping has been taken up by tens of thousands of non-smokers, including children and teenagers. All schools will tell the same story; vaping is out of control.

After years of lobbying by schools, parents and groups such as the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, we were all hopeful to hear earlier this year that the government would restrict sales for young people. What we got instead was a ban on the sale of vape products on any new store within 300 metres of a school (existing ones remain), banning of replaceable vape devices and a removal of some flavour names like Jelly donuts and Caramel sundaes. While this might be a start, this has not gone anywhere close to tackling a problem which is now rampant.

We all know that vaping use is a growing problem amongst our young. The focus on Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 appears to have distracted our authorities on what has been unfolding for years. Instead, it seems the response is to just shrug and comment that at least they aren’t all smoking cigarettes. The reality is cigarette smoking amongst our young had become almost a non-issue. A combination of health concerns, cost and difficulty to access had brought smoking rates right down. And then along came vaping. Marketed as safe, along with being cheap and readily available, vaping has exploded. It is also undoubtedly seen by youth as something edgy and thrilling to try, knowing that schools and parents disapprove. It is also for some, the start of a push back against boundaries set by parents and by schools; a path that inevitably does not end well.

There are loopholes galore in the current legislation including the ability to create a specialist shop within a shop selling vape products to get around some of the restrictions on what products dairies can sell. That is why you now see many dairies with strange little alcoves off to one side masquerading as a separate store even though the same staff move between the two. There is also very little in the way of deterrents for shops to sell to under 18s. While we know sucking in chemicals, along with nicotine into our lungs is far from safe, this is a message that is proving difficult to get through to our teens. It is possible that it will be many years before scientists are able to discover the level of harm that vaping is causing. This is not helped by the lack of any advertising campaign that has been commissioned to dissuade our young from taking up vaping. That role it seems, falls again on schools and on parents.

In the meantime, teens will continue to be able to find new stores selling vapes 301 metres from schools. Their favourite flavour of Electric currant fizz may be renamed “Berry” and they might have to stump up an extra $5 to buy a battery device. This is a problem that has some time to run before it eases. Our stance is not changing, and we will continue to educate our students that vaping is something they need to stay well away from. Earlier this year we informed you all that we now have security cameras around the entrances and exits into the main toilet blocks to deter vandalism; signs for these will be going up imminently. Soon we will also be trialling vape sensors in the same toilets so please talk to your children about the risks associated with vaping and with being caught supplying vapes or vaping at school.

Please also help us by refraining from smoking or vaping on our school premises including our carparks during pick up and drop off times and at sporting events on our fields.

Charity Fulfils the Law