Schools in Northland and Auckland are registering increasing numbers of students vaping during school time, according to a recent survey by the Cancer Society, with children as young as 10 vaping.
Half of the 320 primary and secondary schools that responded to the survey have reported vaping students at their schools.
Eight per cent of primary schools said there had been incidents with pupils using vaping devices.
Several schools highlighted that children and some parents see vaping as "safe" rather than a "less harmful" option than smoking cigarettes and it's being picked up by kids who have never previously smoked.
Rebecca Gilbert, Cancer Society Northland Health Promoter, says vaporisers were popular because they are cheaper than cigarettes, small and easy to use.
"There's a noticeable glamorisation of vaping which makes it increasingly attractive for young people," Gilbert said.
"A lot of students said they wouldn't smoke but vape because vaporisers don't have nicotine flavours, so it doesn't concern them."
Schools across all decile ratings are affected, but higher decile schools report slightly more vaping students than lower decile schools.
Since the survey was conducted anonymously, it is not known which schools are affected.
The Northern Advocate reached out to several schools in the region and of those who replied, only Whangārei Girls' High and Tauraroa Area schools reported "a few incidents" but didn't regard vaping as a pressing issue.
Grant Burns, Tauraroa Area School Principal, says they had one incident last year and one just a few weeks ago in which senior students were caught vaping.
"We are aware of the fact that teenagers like to experiment. We're taking a hard line on this; smoking, vaping and drinking in our school and school buses are not acceptable," Burns said.
He says most students didn't tolerate smoking or vaping and would report offenders to the staff.
Whangārei Girls' High School follows a similar zero-tolerance policy where vaping is regarded as illegal substance abuse.
"We've had some incidents at the school, but it's hard to hide vaping because of the thick smoke it produces," Principal Anne Cooper said.
Cooper didn't describe vaping as a widespread issue at Girls' High at this stage.
An anonymous Whangārei secondary school, however, described vaping as a frequent problem:
"Boys in Year 9 are vaping. Many parents support [it]," it said in the survey report.
"It is a huge issue and hard to manage due to the discrete nature of many devices."
Another anonymous Kaipara primary school is not aware of pupils vaping while at school, but they "have students who have been seen vaping in the community and have let their parents know of this", the report stated.
"It is a concern that some as young as 10 are vaping."
A statement by a Far North intermediate reads: "I know at least two of my senior students (12-year olds) have been seen vaping outside of school. When I asked one of them about it, he said Mum knew and said it was ok for him to do this."
The Ministry of Health is currently working towards improving vaping regulations by amending the Smoke-free Environments Act.
Jane Chambers, the ministry's manager for tobacco control, says vaping products were intended for smokers only, and primarily to assist them to quit.
"Non-smokers, particularly young non-smokers, should be strongly discouraged from vaping," Chambers said.
The proposed changes in vaping regulations would see similar provisions as apply to tobacco products.
"This will include a prohibition on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of vaping products and smokeless tobacco devices," Chambers said.
The amendments would prohibit flavours and colours that attract children and young people. It's expected to be introduced into the house later this year.
The Cancer Society criticises the easy access minors have to vaping product through online sales.
"We want the government to reduce access to under-18-year olds. Youth shouldn't have any opportunity to buy vaping products," Gilbert said.
The Cancer Society Northland is only promoting vaping as means of quitting smoking and welcomes efforts by the Kaipara and Whangārei District councils to make all smokefree zones vape-free, too.
At the same time, they acknowledge that current evidence suggests vaping is less likely to cause cancer than smoking.