Queensland principals takes tough stance on vaping in schools ahead of Parliamentary inquiry findings

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

An inquiry into vaping is currently underway in Queensland and will report back to Parliament with its findings by the end of August.

The parliamentary committee is investigating the prevalence of e-cigarette usage among the Queensland population, particularly with young people.

But for many Queensland principals dealing with the concerning issue of vaping in schools, taking matters into their own hands until then is critical.

With some principals – at both high schools and primary schools across the state – reporting confiscation of multiple vapes per week, taking a tough stance is seen as the best possible solution to help reduce the problem.

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A recent report in The Courier-Mail newspaper quoted Shalom College principal Dan McMahon revealing he was confiscating up to 10 vapes per week throughout 2022 before outlining the Bundaberg school’s tough approach to its 1300-plus students.

Mr McMahon, who is also the president of the Queensland Catholic Secondary Principals’ Association, said the introduction of a mandatory five-day external suspension has helped.

By including children who were present with the students vaping in the school suspension, the hard line had a measurable impact.

“We were catching a lot,” Mr McMahon told The Courier-Mail. “About seven, eight or 10 a week for a while until we cracked down.”

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When she announced the inquiry in March this year,  Queensland Premier Annastacia Pala­szczuk said that its aim was to explore what the devices actually contain, and the potential health risks, as well as ways to curb the uptake of the habit.

“I’m hearing accounts of children in primary schools vaping during their lunch hours, so I think we need an educational campaign to really inform the public about what is actually in these vapes,” Ms Palaszczuk said at the time.

And with reports that Queensland state schools handed out more than 16,000 suspensions and exclusions for substance misconduct across 2021 and 2022 – more than double the figures during 2018-2019 – it’s clear that vaping in schools needs to be addressed.

According to Queensland Teachers’ Union president Cresta Richardson, it’s an issue that the union’s members were reporting regularly – and an unwelcome distraction from their official duties.

To help support the work being done in schools by already over-stretched educators, Ms Richardson said parents and caregivers had an essential role to play.

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“All educational support programs to tackle vaping in schools need to be targeted at both students and parents and should be fully resourced by the government,” Ms Richardson said.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live