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The Inverness Courier

Vape-Free Youth


The Courier’s 17-year old trainee journalist, Iona MacDonald, who first joined at age 16, was concerned to see a rising in vaping amongst her peers, given that they had never smoked cigarettes previously. With support from senior colleagues, she launched her campaign ‘Vape-Free Youth’.

Iona’s first article was a piece of gonzo journalism that saw her going into shops to see how many people would sell her vapes without an ID. The piece went viral and she was retweeted by prominent journalists, including the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

The journalist was also invited to a roundtable discussion with Central Scotland MSP Gillian Mackay, making important contributions in explaining the appeal and ease of access for teenagers. She is now using FOI requests and statistics to dig deeper into similar activity in the Highlands, as well as going into schools to discuss her findings and raise awareness of the harmful effects of vaping, particularly how it is presented on TikTok.

The campaign was nominated for the best local campaign, as part of the 2023 Making a Difference award. Upon the campaign being nominated, Iona MacDonald said: “I am overjoyed to be nominated for the Journalism Matters Making a Difference Award 2023, especially to have my campaign alongside such powerful and important stories from all the other UK publications nominated.

“As a teenage reporter I could see the staggering rise in vaping amongst my peers, and the impact it was having on their health. Our voices need to be heard, and action needs to be taken.

“Being nominated for a national journalism award wasn’t something I expected to happen in my career, never mind at age 17. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support from my community, Highland News and Media, friends, and family. It’s an honour to represent the Highlands, women, and teenagers in this award nomination.

“Voting for the Vape-Free Youth campaign would help bring this issue to the forefront, because something needs to change.”