Vaping ban a welcome move

In early May the Federal Government announced a ban on the importation of nicotine and non-nicotine products used for recreational purposes. The products will still be allowed for pharmacies.

The habit of vaping has skyrocketed among students in recent years. Students (and even parents) often believe they are indulging in a habit that is relatively safe, but studies have shown vaping is dangerous.

The take-up of vaping by young people is increasing. Research shows that one in five young people have vaped and nearly 80 per cent of them say it is easy to get a vape illegally at a shop or online.

In a recent survey, 64 per cent of teachers reported being aware of the sale of vapes at school. (Source: NSW Department of Health website).

A study by Curtin University researchers revealed potentially toxic substances in e-liquids or vape juice.

The study tested the chemicals and toxicity of 52 flavoured vape e-liquids available for sale over the counter in Australia and found that 100 per cent of the products were inaccurately labelled and contained chemicals with unknown effects on respiratory health.

Almost a third of the products also contained chemicals that are likely to be toxic if inhaled repeatedly, while 21 per cent contained nicotine, despite the substance being banned in the country.

The chemicals found in these e-liquids were known to cause respiratory disorders, including severe irritation when inhaled, and contribute to the development of lung cancer.

“With the unregulated, untested, and unknown nature of the vape industry, we knew the research into the chemicals and toxicity of e-liquids would uncover strong findings, but we never expected such alarming results,” Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said.

IEU QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the action was urgently needed to tackle the scourge of vaping.

“Vaping and the use of e-cigarette products by school children is an issue being raised increasingly by our members,” Burke said.

“While the long-term issues of vaping remain to be seen, the research shows children who vape are three times more likely to take up smoking, which is highly concerning.

“Vapes were introduced as a therapeutic tool for adults transitioning off cigarettes in a bid to quit smoking.

“Instead, vapes have been made easily available for recreational use by children, sold cheaply over the counter at corner shops and marketed with flavours, colours and packaging designed to appeal to youth.

“Our members are concerned at the number of young people engaging in the habit, who are at risk of addiction and adverse health outcomes.

“School staff are struggling to combat the issue and report they feel ill-equipped to educate students and the wider community about the long-term dangers of vaping,” he said.

“The Federal Government’s reforms, through stronger legislation, enforcement, education and support will hopefully curtail the uptake of vaping, which has exploded in popularity during the last five years.

IEUA NSW/ACT Branch member Bruce Paine said vaping was the new menace impacting students and teachers.

“Many schools are encountering similar issues: the sweet smell of raspberry, bubblegum or vanilla wafting from toilets and shrubbery,” Paine said.

“Students asking to ‘duck out’ to the toilet during lessons, groups of students huddling suspiciously and students in empty classrooms at lunch and recess,” he said.

“These are the signs that vaping is alive and well in your school community – girls and boys are equally interested in ‘grabbing a vape’. I believe vaping is bigger than cigarette smoking during the 1980s and 90s.

“Many parents don’t vape, so students are using other sources – a black market develops in the school, money changes hands, people who are not members of the school community lurk around outside after 3.30pm, ‘drops’ are arranged, a network is developed, the supply chain put in place.

“Detecting these thumb-sized vapes is impossible. It’s a game that students are winning. Students in Year 5 are using vapes and the menace is present in every year group in high schools.

“It is taking everybody’s valuable time away from teaching, supporting and learning,” Paine said.