Killing more than 8 million people globally each year, smoking is a major risk factor for more than 20 types of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and many other debilitating health conditions.
Nicotine is known to be highly addictive — especially on developing brains — and more must be done to prevent its use among a generation in which the use of e-cigarettes, or ‘vapes’, is growing rapidly.
Vaping represents a dangerous gateway into smoking for non-smokers and young people, and we continue to fight against complacency in an effort to stop the tobacco and vaping industries preying on our young people.
We support research, policy, and health promotion activities to highlight the risks and ensure that another generation of young people do not fall prey to nicotine addiction.
We challenge the importation and sale of all e-cigarettes and vaping devices and advocate to ensure e-cigarettes remain restricted in Australia unless they are proven to meet Australia’s therapeutic goods standards.
An independent and committed collective voice is needed to drive swift and decisive action from state and federal governments and empower behavioural change among 14-25-year-olds to prevent a life-long addiction to nicotine.
Without this action, it’s likely that by 2030 we will see 50 per cent of Australia’s youth addicted to nicotine.
Despite growing acknowledgement of this issue by health and education ministers across the country, federal and state governments have not prevented the illegal importation and sales of e-cigarettes.
Improvements to regulatory policy are required across both jurisdictions, specifically to:
A study of the chemically flavoured liquids used in e-cigarettes — e-liquids — available in Australia confirmed serious concerns about their safety and respiratory health impacts.
E-liquids are commonly available in Australia as a consumer product. It is illegal to sell e-liquids containing nicotine in Australia without a prescription, but due to importation loopholes, products remain available for illegal domestic sale through online avenues.
The study — funded by Minderoo Foundation and the Lung Foundation Australia and published in the Medical Journal of Australia — saw researchers from Curtin University and the Telethon Kids Institute test the ingredients and toxicity of 65 e-liquids for sale over the counter in Australia.
The researchers found:
Lung Foundation Australia CEO, Mark Brooke, said the results of the study showed a clear need for government to address e-cigarette use in Australia.
“More and more young Australians are trying and taking up vaping chemically flavoured e-cigarettes. Yet it is clear from this study that these young Australians are unaware of the chemicals in the e-liquids and what those chemicals do to a human body,” Mr Brooke said.
Director of Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative, Dr Steve Burnell, said it was critically important to prevent a new generation of smokers becoming addicted.
“We already know that e-cigarettes can increase the chance of a non-smoker taking up cigarettes and that they are deliberately targeted to appeal to young people,” Dr Burnell said.
“We now have clear evidence to assist regulators to reconsider the appropriateness of these products being sold to — or used by — Australians.”
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Ben Mullins from Curtin University’s School of Public Health, said the e-liquids tested contained multiple chemicals that were not listed on the labels.
“While some of these chemicals may be safe and approved food additives, it has frequently been shown that there is a vast difference between a chemical that is safe to ingest and one which is safe to inhale long-term,” Associate Professor Mullins said.
The World Health Organization estimates young people who use e-cigarettes are more than twice as likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes later in life.