EDITORIAL: Vaping at risk of becoming a national health crisis

Editorial
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The availability of lolly-flavoured vapes and e-cigarettes packed with nicotine amid a failed regulatory regime has been ‘a recipe for disaster’, a NSW inquiry has heard.
The availability of lolly-flavoured vapes and e-cigarettes packed with nicotine amid a failed regulatory regime has been ‘a recipe for disaster’, a NSW inquiry has heard. Credit: The Nightly

The opportunity to get a handle on vaping before it become a full blown public health catastrophe is slipping away from us.

E-cigarette use is exploding among Australia’s youth.

According to researched released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare just last month, in 2019, only 9.6 per cent of Australians aged 14 to 17 had ever used e-cigarettes. By 2023, that figure had almost tripled, to 28 per cent.

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And almost half of those aged 18 to 24 had vaped once in their lifetime, while one in five were already regular users.

This is an emergency.

If we don’t confront this problem now, vaping has the potential to become a public health disaster akin to the smoking epidemic of decades past. In the 1970s, more than three-quarters of Australian men and one quarter of women were regular smokers.

It’s taken half a century and countless laws, taxes and millions spent on education campaigns to reduce that figure to 8.3 per cent today.

In that time, hundreds of thousands of Australians died preventable, unnecessary deaths from smoking-related illnesses.

We can not allow this to happen again.

Kids today are picking up vapes for the same reasons their parents and grandparents smoked cigarettes.

They do so out of curiosity because they’re seen as fun, cool and rebellious.

The tactics of the companies marketing these products haven’t changed much either. They know that they need to lure in a market as young as possible now before the health impacts are fully known. That way, these companies might get a few decades out of their business before their customer base starts to die off.

So they aggressively market towards teens and pre-teens, with brightly coloured packaging and flavours that sound more like a stick of bubble gum than a potential carcinogen.

That’s the other great trick these companies are playing. Gen Z, and Gen Alpha behind them, are savvy and health-conscious. Most wouldn’t dream of lighting up a conventional cigarette.

But they’ve been hoodwinked into thinking that e-cigarettes are a harmless alternative. After all, it’s only water vapour, right?

Along with chemicals found in weed killer, nail polish remover and bug spray.

E-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for us to know their long-term health impacts, but they’re unlikely to be good. We know the short-term effects include nausea, airway irritation, chest pain and heart palpitations.

Both Federal and State governments have been caught napping by the rapid rise of e-cigarettes.

Now they’re scrambling to do something about it.

The importation of vapes was banned at the start of the year, except under limited circumstances. Soon, their sale will be banned except for those sold to those using them to quit smoking.

It’s a regulation that is long overdue.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by The Nightly Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie.

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