Home » Vaping – a stop-smoking aid or a threat to Australia’s youth?

Vaping – a stop-smoking aid or a threat to Australia’s youth?

Daniel Bouwmeester    December 1, 2023    4 min read   

Smoking tobacco continues to be a major hazard to people’s long-term health and quality of life in Australia – with 50 people a day dying from smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and several cancers.

Image: Adobe.

Rates of smoking, however, have decreased dramatically over the years through a strong public health approach regarding tobacco control, awareness campaigns, and tailored support to quit smoking.

This has seen smoking rates halve from 24% in 1991 to 11% in 2019 among people aged 14 and over.

Australia’s tough approach was world-leading, being the first country to introduce plain cigarette packaging, in 2012.

The tobacco industry fought hard against this public health measure to no avail, and within 10 years, 24 further countries had introduced plain packaging laws.

A new menace, however, is targeting young people, and threatens to undermine our progress.

Tobacco use rising again

The rate of tobacco smoking among young Australians under the age of 25 has started to increase – thanks to the proliferation of vapes.

This comes as tobacco companies find novel ways to appeal to younger generations, and aggressively market products such as vapes through social media.

Vapes, also known as e-cigarettes and electro-smoke, are battery-operated devices which heat a liquid, producing a vapour that is inhaled into the lungs.

‘Vaping’ mimics the action of smoking cigarettes, however it is popular among young people who have never smoked.

Some people use vapes to help them quit cigarette smoking, choosing flavoured vape liquids – with or without nicotine.

They are marketed as “safer” than smoking and are recommended as an aid to stop smoking in some countries.

However, research in Australia suggests many vapes are not safe due to the presence of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, nickel, and acetone.

Many vapes contain nicotine even when labels state they do not, and many people both smoke tobacco and vape.

Increasingly, young people in Australia are accessing nicotine vapes, and 1 in 6 people aged 14-17 years have tried vaping.

There is strong evidence that vaping acts as a ‘gateway’ to regular smoking, with young people three times as likely to start smoking tobacco products.

Vapes are also an environmental hazard. In the UK, for example, five million disposable vapes are thrown away every week!

New laws

Australia’s federal government is limiting access to vapes – again.

The federal government banned the purchase or importing of nicotine vapes in 2021, unless you had a prescription from a doctor.

Nonetheless, a thriving black market has made access to vapes easy.

Two years on, new laws banning non-therapeutic and disposable single-use vapes, with or without nicotine, are being introduced. Flavours, colours and some ingredients will also be banned.

The aim is to curtail the black market as well as reduce access especially to teenagers.

Using vapes as a quit-smoking aid will still be available via prescription.

Australia’s new laws are being watched with interest as the UK and European countries grapple with their own vaping crises, meanwhile many countries have banned them completely.

Support to quit

If you are finding it hard to quit smoking or vaping and would like to speak to someone, you can contact Queensland Health’s Quitline team.

They provide ongoing counselling and can advise whether Nicotine Replacement Therapy is the right option for you. Call Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit quithq.initiatives.qld.gov.au/how-to-quit/get-help-from-quitline.

If you are a parent or carer and want to learn more about vaping visit Vaping Exposed at vapingexposed.initiatives.qld.gov.au.

If you are a school teacher in Queensland and want to know more about vaping, you can access the Blurred Lines Academy education program at blurredminds.com.au/academy.

– Victoria Sullivan MSc.

Stop Smoking Practitioner / Health Promotion Practitioner / PhD Candidate at The University of Queensland Centre for Community Health and Wellbeing at Springfield

Here in Springfield, we are working with local health professionals to make it Australia’s healthiest city.

You can share your ideas and experiences with us by emailing cchw@uq.edu.au or by finding us on Twitter @UQCCHW.

To take part in the Springfield Health and Wellbeing Check In survey, visit ​​loom.ly/9lzh85U or scan this QR code.

The Centre for Community Health and Wellbeing at Springfield team is both seeking advice from and helping improve health outcomes for Springfield residents.

Daniel Bouwmeester

Daniel was born in a mining town in New South Wales to Dutch and Welsh immigrants, before relocating to Logan City, where he attended Canterbury College for twelve years. He pursued his passion for music by completing a first-class honours degree at the University of Queensland (UQ), and later signed with a local record label. He has travelled the world from a young age, including a student exchange in rural France, a job working the ski lifts in Colorado, and visits to the islands of the South Pacific. After a six-year career in market research, Daniel returned to UQ to complete a Bachelor of Journalism and Arts dual degree, majoring in political science. His varied experiences at home and abroad have contributed to a passion for spreading good news while defending the truth buried inside complex societal paradigms.