Life Education tackles vaping with theatre education programme

Behind the Scenes performance Life Education Trust has launched a theatre in education programme Behind the Scenes which deals with impacts of vaping.

In the last few years vaping has become a significant issue for many schools with an increase in young people addicted to vaping.

As a result of ongoing concern from principals and educators, Life Education has been working with the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation to address the issue.  Behind the Scenes will be trialled in selected schools during Term 2 before it rolls out to schools nationwide. The production is aimed at year 11 secondary school students and will highlight the impacts of vaping.

“It’s alarming the rapid increase in the number of school student’s vaping and the incredibly high nicotine rates of vaping products. Secondary school principals are telling us that vaping has become an epidemic and a number of the primary school leaders we work with are also citing it as an issue,” says Life Education Trust Chief Executive, John O’Connell.

The ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey conducted with Year Ten Students in 2021, last month released results for regular vaping, and this showed dramatic uptake for all ethnicities; increasing from 12% in 2019 to 20% in 2021.  This figure is in line with the regular vaping rates the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation/Secondary Principal’s Assoc Survey reported which had youth vaping in the past 7 days at 27%.  In the ASH Survey, regular vaping for Māori was alarmingly even higher, with 19.1% of Māori boys, regularly vaping in 2019 increasing to 30.6% in 2021, and for Māori girls, 19.1% in 2019 increasing to 40.7% in 2021.

Which is strong evidence we need education initiatives in schools.

Behind the Scenes uses the successful format of Life Education’s other theatre programmes, SMASHED and SMART$ to entertain and educate secondary school students. Behind the Scenes will focus on vaping and the wider context of how social media influences decision making and behaviours. It will give young people the knowledge and skills to make positive choices around vaping and strategies to stand up to peer pressure. The content was informed by surveys of Year 11 students to ensure it was relevant for the audience.

 “Behind the Scenes gives rangatahi a safe space to explore vaping, its impacts and peer pressure. We know from our experience with our other theatre in education programmes SMASHED and SMART$ that this platform works for students of this age as it tells someone else’s story – not their own. This space allows students to actively engage in the issues raised as a group. This includes looking at other options or choices for the characters that may lead to better outcomes,” says Mr O’Connell.

“It’s wonderful to see this show being developed for our rangatahi. We need to ensure young people are educated on the harms of vaping so we can turn Aotearoa’s youth vaping epidemic around, and prevent future generations becoming addicted to a product that will have a negative impact on their health,” says Chief Executive, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, Letitia Harding.

Life Education integrated vaping education into their Healthy Harold programme in primary schools in 2020. In conjunction with Behind the Scenes, Life Education has developed a 25-minute online webinar schools can invite parents and community to participate in. The webinar focuses on information on the types of vaping products, the impact of nicotine on the adolescent brain, and how vaping is being woven into the social media that young people watch. Life Education Educators will also deliver face-to-face workshops for year 9 and 10 students.