Anne Hailes: Never mind smoking cigarettes, Rishi Sunak – our teens are vaping and now taking snus

Anne Hailes

Anne Hailes

Anne is Northern Ireland's first lady of journalism, having worked in the media since she joined Ulster Television when she was 17. Her columns have been entertaining and informing Irish News readers for 25 years.

Colum Sands has captured an image of birch trees against a cloudless deep blue winter sky
Colum Sands has captured an image of birch trees against a cloudless deep blue winter sky

ADULTS who haven’t grown up in this age of extreme technology tend to criticise the young who never have a mobile phone out of their hands, texting, texting and texting.

But consider how we, in our youth, sat on the telephone for hours talking, talking and talking. We went walking together, slow danced at local ‘hops’, even sent postcards when on holiday; communication was different and easy.

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But here’s a thought. All these modern phones have a camera so challenge your teenagers to a competition with a prize at the end.

The challenge is to take 12 photos that would be worthy of entering into a photographic competition. Open their eyes to what’s going on round them, the people, places and things.

Capturing the well-worn face of an elderly man or a stunning landscape, watching for a unique chance of the right expression or well-lit view. Over 12 months save the best for a calendar next new year – there are websites full of offers to print these, and they make great presents.

A picture book is a rare thing these days which makes These Quiet Places, a new book from Colum Sands, so special. This singer and storyteller has travelled the world but it’s at home, round the shores of Carlingford Lough, that he’s found his inspiration and each photograph is highlighted with a few words.

My favourite, is of fine leafless birch trees on a beautiful day. He has used his creative eye and laid down underneath the branches and so has captured a wonderful network of fine twigs against the cloudless deep blue winter sky.

Branches bare still reaching towards,

Knowing where their hope is found,

Underneath this frosty blanket

New life stirs beneath the ground.

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Banning cigarettes in England, beginning with 14-year-olds, means that over the coming years cigarettes will cease to exist, says the prime minister.

This has to be voted on so it isn't a done deal and a dedicated smoker of any age will still find the dreaded weed somewhere – abroad, from older friends, in the home.

I was once that dedicated smoker, beginning with wax straws at school – they came with a little bottle of milk and if you dried them and lit the end you could strike a pose, puffing and blowing.

Then came the real thing – called cancer sticks at that time – and I was told I smoked for Ireland. Those were the days when you could pass your packet around because they were so cheap – two shillings and sixpence (12 1/2 pence) for 200 king size to buy on the plane coming home from holiday.

Then I suddenly didn’t want to smoke and soon found I was pregnant so posted stickers all round the office saying ‘Kiss a non-smoker and taste the difference’ – the body is a remarkable machine, it seemed to know.

Five years and two babies later, in a moment of madness I was back. I only gave up when my daughter was four and cried thinking I would die because I smoked.

Education had got to her and for me that’s the way forward. Chest Heart & Stroke have a schools programme which informs young people of the dangers.

However, there’s another drug danger coming over the hill – snus. This is a type of tobacco snuff which presents like a tea bag that’s put under the top lip where it dissolves and gets into your system. It's a stimulant which footballers in particular use to help their performance.

It’s illegal to buy and sell snus to under-18-year-olds but legal if you are over the age of 18. However, like so many things, it’s available on the internet.

Users face the horrors of cancer – especially mouth cancer –as well as heart problems and disrupted sleep. And that’s only the half of it.

Vaping has replaced smoking cigarettes as a teenage vice
Vaping has replaced smoking cigarettes as a teenage vice


...E-cigarettes, or vaping, with all the myths and facts that surround it. Not safe, better than smoking tobacco for someone trying to kick the habit but equally addictive.

An 18-year-old told me how he rarely smokes cigarettes as they are so old fashioned: “I can’t imagine how awful it is to have something burning between your fingers.

"We had a test in school where a glass cylinder full of cotton balls was attached to tobacco smoke and it wasn’t long before the cotton was dark brown with nicotine.

"We’re into vapes – they're safer, don’t smell and have lots of variety, and with peer pressure, young ones are really into it."

He added: "I’m not addicted... but if I don’t have my vape with me I do panic a bit – I can go without it but then it’s like being thirsty for water."

Take your soundbite, prime minister, and get serious.

Chest Heart & Stroke,