More than a third of high school students have tried vaping with 10 per cent vaping regularly and 6 per cent vaping weekly or more often, a new survey shows.
Researchers also found 80 per cent of regular vaping teens and 90 per cent of those who vaped weekly, more often or always used e-cigarettes with nicotine.
The Youth19 survey, questioned secondary school students aged 13 to 18 in the Auckland, Northland, and Waikato in 2019.
Researcher Dr Jude Ball, from the University of Otago, Wellington said the study found vaping to be two to three times more common than smoking among students.
"Nationally, this would translate to 15,000 regular vapers and 6700 weekly vapers in the New Zealand secondary school population who have never smoked."
Ball said the survey highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between making it easy for adult smokers to switch to less harmful vaping, while protecting young non-smokers.
She said the study suggests during 2018 and 2019, that balance was not achieved.
Students started experimenting with vaping at a young age, with 22 per cent of Year 9 students saying they had tried vaping, the study found.
In 2018, nicotine-containing "pod" devices, such as JUUL and Vuse were introduced to the market which is why Ball believes vaping among youth increased.
Most Pod devices allow high nicotine concentrations without causing a harsh sensation in the mouth and throat by using nicotine salt.
The survey found 80 per cent of students who regularly vape use nicotine compared to a 2019 study that found only 23 per cent of 14 and 15-year-old vapers had used nicotine the last time they vaped.
"It is also concerning that 17 per cent of those who had tried vaping, did not know whether they had used nicotine or not," Ball said.
While there are lower heath risks associated to vaping compared to soothing, Ball said it is not harmless.
"Since e-cigarettes have only been widely available for about 10 years and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances may only show up decades later, the impacts of long term use are still unknown."
Ball said recent reports found high risk of acute lung injury in vapers, as well as chronic risks to cardiovascular, respiratory and oral health.
Fellow researcher Associate Professor Terryann Clark (Ngāpuhi) believes more needs to be done to enforce new laws to restrict marketing and ban sales of vaping products to under 18s.
"Our findings suggest that prevention campaigns will need to focus on much younger students, with one in five students having already tried vaping by the age of 14."
Clark supports the Government proposals to invest in social marketing campaigns aimed at supporting young people to stay smokefree and vapefree.
"Online marketing continues to target young people with competitions and promotions despite the law change, and we are aware of retailers who are still selling vaping products to young people under 18. What we're hearing from schools is that prevalence of vaping has gone up, not down, since 2019."
In August, new vaping legislation came into effect which may make it harder for teenagers to access nicotine products.
General retailers - dairies, supermarkets and service stations - across the country are only be allowed to sell three vape flavours - mint, menthol, or tobacco.
Flavoured vapes are popular among teenagers, and up until November last year, there were no age restrictions on purchasing the products.
Other vape liquids are only at specialised stores, which have tighter security and prevention mechanisms to deter those under 18.