Students Vaping in Dubai? Vaping on the rise among school students, warn experts


A combination of factors such as peer pressure, attractive ads, and easy-to-obtain e-cigarettes lead to students taking up the bad habit has led to increase in vaping in students in Dubai.

M.A., a 12-year-old student at a school in Dubai, was shocked when a senior student offered her a vape in the school toilet. “She said it was her 12th vape and no one had ever caught her and that her 10-year-old brother also vaped,” said M.A.

Experts in the country are warning that there has been a rise in the number of school students who are vaping. Bushra Khan, a transformation coach at Wellth, deals with addictions and said that she had seen an increase in the number of teenage clients who came to her to kick the habit of vaping.

“Adolescence is a time of exploration and experimentation,” she said. “Teenagers may try vaping out of curiosity or to see what it’s like, not fully understanding the potential risks. Some teenagers may turn to vape as a way to cope with stress or emotional difficulties, seeking a form of escape or temporary relief.”

Hard to catch

School principals have also agreed that they have seen an increase in students vaping. One principal, who did not want to be identified, said that they faced certain difficulties while cracking down on vaping.

“Unlike cigarettes, vapes are harder to detect because they don’t leave a smell like nicotine,” he said. “Also, because they are small, they are easy to hide. We do spot checks on bags, but students often hide vapes on themselves and as a school, we cannot pat down students. So, we have a lot of challenges.”

Another principal said that they are turning cases of vaping into valuable learning experiences. “We have actively sought support from the Abu Dhabi community, including Abu Dhabi Police, to talk about the legality of vaping for underage students, the harmful effects of vaping on adolescent development, and the addictiveness of nicotine,” said Robert Rinaldo, Head of School, GEMS American Academy – Abu Dhabi.

He also added that there are numerous student-led projects to raise awareness. “These projects have allowed students to take a proactive role in using their learning to influence peers and make an impact by promoting healthy choices and wellness,” he said.


According to Bushra Khan, there are many reasons why students pick up vaping. “E-cigarettes come in a wide range of appealing flavours like fruit, candy, and dessert flavours,” she said. “These flavours can be attractive to teenagers who may not be interested in the taste of tobacco.”

She also said that there is a misconception about the dangers of vaping. “Many teenagers believed that vaping was less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes,” she said. “The misconception arose because e-cigarettes produce vapour rather than smoke, leading some to think it was a safer alternative.”

She said other factors also come into play. “Peer pressure plays a significant role in encouraging teenagers to try vaping,” she said. “If their friends or peers are vaping, they feel compelled to join in to be part of the social circle. Also, e-cigarette companies often employ aggressive marketing strategies that appeal to young people. Attractive ads, celebrity endorsements, and online influencers are used to create an association between vaping and a desirable lifestyle.”

Illegal sale

Some educators and parents have raised concerns about vapes being widely available and being sold to underage students by unscrupulous individuals.

“I have heard my friends say that there is a guy they call to get vapes illegally,” said R.N., a 16-year-old school student. “Either they deliver it directly to them or ask them to pick it up from a certain shop.”

Bushra Khan also noted that in her experience with youngsters, she noticed that such products were not difficult to obtain. “Vaping devices and e-liquids were relatively easy to obtain, both in physical stores and online,” she said.

According to a Dubai Municipality spokesperson, it is illegal to sell vapes to anyone under 18 and strict penalties were in place. “Vaping is a new smoking category of Electronic cigarettes which is subjected to Federal Law no. 15 of 2009 on Tobacco Control, where the minimum age is 18 years old,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson further elaborated that the penalty starts with Dh500, with repeated offences being penalised with fines going up to Dh3000 and Dh10,000. Continued offences could also lead to closure in coordination with the concerned authorities.

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