How does vaping affect youth wellbeing? A qualitative analysis of rangatahi living in Aotearoa New Zealand

This research was conducted by Olivia Sloan, supervised by Janet Hoek.

Rising youth vaping has created concerns about the wider impact vaping has had on rangatahi wellbeing, particularly given the other disruptions young people have had to managed since 2020. We explored this question using the Ngā Pou Mauriora framework, which explored the following domains of wellbeing: Whanaungatanga (social support);  Kaitiakitanga (engagement with natural environments); Ukaipotanga (identity and belonging); Wāhi Manaakitanga (safe, healthy communities); Whairawa (economic wellbeing).

To address this question, we undertook in-depth interviews with young people aged 16 to 20; we interviewed rangatahi who did and did not vape, to obtain differing perspectives on vaping. The interview guide first explored the five pou in general, before probing how vaping affected each pou. We analysed the data using a reflexive thematic analysis approach.

Participants outlined a holistic view of wellbeing, noting the importance of relationships with whānau who would always be there for them, the role of green spaces in wellbeing, their need to develop strong and positive identities that connected with whānau and communities, and their need for resources that enabled them to realise their goals. Vaping disrupted each of these domains. It created secrecy and disharmony within whānau, and led to loss of trust; it harmed the environment in multiple ways (the smell, product waste, co-option of spaces, e.g., school bathrooms); young people felt the stigma of addiction and disapproval of peers who did not vape, and felt they set poor examples to others in their communities. Vaping also imposed a financial burden on them. Despite hoping vaping would relieve stress and enable them to manage their mental wellbeing, vaping reduced the feeling they coped and left those who vaped feeling highly regretful.

Harms of vaping are often conceptualised as physical and compared favourably to smoking; however, rangatahi experiences suggest considering harms posed by vaping requires a broader perspective, such as that proposed in the Ngā Pou Mauriora framework.

Project team members

Olivia Sloan, Andrew Waa, Lani Teddy, Janet Hoek


HRC programme grant 19/641 (2019)