The Vaping Epidemic

Schools are deeply concerned by the speed with which vaping has been adopted by a significant proportion of young Australians and by the potential and actual harms to students from nicotine and other toxic chemicals in vaping products. After so successfully winning the war against tobacco and smoking cigarettes, it’s been heartbreaking to see the ease with which producers and suppliers of vapes have managed to successfully infiltrate the teenage market.

At present, it is estimated that around 14% of 12- to 17-year-olds have tried an e-cigarette. While their use is more common in those aged 18-24, the appeal of these brightly coloured, pleasantly smelling and enticingly flavoured devices and the myth that they are not harmful, is of concern.  Over recent years, viral online trends, the ease of access and their affordability have enabled these devices to make their way easily into homes and schools.

It is good to see the tide turning in terms of government regulation. In June 2022, Juul, the e-cigarette company in the US, was banned from selling its product in the USA. At this point the company was worth $US38 billion and had marketed itself as the ‘safe’ future of smoking. It continues to fight the ban in the courts. Currently there are multiple companies worldwide producing vapes.

Currently, Australia uses a prescription model for vape supply. This has led to a vast black market supply chain and increasing concern in health sectors about the toxicity and tobacco content of these vapes. Last month, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) published the almost 4000 public submissions it received in response to the Australian Government’s vaping reform. “All State and Territory governments supported tightening border controls for nicotine vaping products, with most also supporting closing the personal importation scheme and requiring import permits,” the TGA summary said. Amongst these submissions were multiple responses from schools and school sectors as well as health professionals and university researchers. All sectors agree that we are facing a public health emergency and that strong regulations are needed including greater controls on imports, regulation of sales and the banning of colourful misleading packaging.

This week, the Federal Health Minister indicated the Government will pursue a ban on imported disposable vapes and this is aimed at taking vapes out of convenience stores and eliminating the black market trade. I hope the publicity around this will help young people grow in their understanding of the harmful and addictive impact of vaping and that Government controls support and protect the health of this teenage generation.

Reference Article:Vape ban Australia: Mark Butler to ban disposable vapes (