Worth Watching: Talking Point’s Special About Teen Vaping

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“Tim” (not his real name) picked up his first vape when he was 14 years old. He was addicted to cigarettes. So addicted that his father gave him a vape in an attempt to get him to stop.

But it led to another addiction. Tim couldn’t get enough of vaping. He was puffing at home, at school, and even in class during class.

“Sometimes I would feel like I should take a smoke break, but I can’t leave the classroom, so I’ll just take a puff and then blow it in my bag, or like blow it into my shirt, because the smoke kind of equals disappears. It doesn’t stink,” he admits to Mediacorp current affairs program Talking Point.

Tim isn’t the only teen addicted to vaping.

In 2021, more than 4,600 people in Singapore were caught buying, using and/or possessing vapes. That is more than three times as much as the year before. A third of these vapers caught were under the age of 18.

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What exactly is a vapor? Essentially it’s an e-cigarette, filled with liquid that comes in a cocktail of flavors so tempting with names like Pumpkin Spice and Bandung – it’s no wonder kids are enticed.

In Singapore, vaping is prohibited. You cannot buy, own or smoke a vape. But still, teenagers get their hands on it.

In a two-part Talking Point Special, host Munah Bagharib dives deep into the world of vaping. She investigates how our youngsters get access to such contraband and what happens when one starts vaping at such a young age.

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She meets Tim and other teens who vape and discovers how accessible the contraband is.

“Kelly”, who started vaping at 16, told her: “It’s easier to get a vape than to buy cigarettes because I’m still a minor.

“Like (on) 7-11, you have CCTV and stuff. It’s so much easier to get as a vape.”

Karen Lim, a student health consultant at the Health Promotion Board whose work involves helping kids quit smoking, says about half of her caseload now consists of college students who vape.

Despite authorities removing and closing social media lists selling vapes in Singapore, Talking Point managed to find many others, including thriving Telegram chat rooms, even selling vapes containing juice laced with THC.

THC is the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. So what exactly are our kids inhaling? Talking Point teamed up with the Singapore Health Sciences Authority to send a number of seized vapes to a lab for testing and the results are shocking.

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One of the chemicals found was formaldehyde, a carcinogen used in embalming. They also found that the nicotine content was higher than a cigarette.

dr. Aneez DB Ahmed, senior consultant surgeon for thoracic surgery at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says he is starting to see cases of teenage vapers with inflamed lungs.

“The earlier you start, the greater your risk of developing cancer and lung injury,” he adds.

“If you turn yourself into a closet vaper, you’re likely to use more nicotine. It definitely affects the younger people. It affects brain development in a younger age group.”

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